Recapping the news about "Nomadland", plus the launch of BBC Select in Canada.
Wonder Woman 1984 (or WW84 for short), the DC movie sequel starring Gal Gadot, directed by Patty Jenkins, and distributed by Warner Bros., became available in Canada in theatres (in the few parts of Canada where they are permitted to be open) starting on Christmas Day – Friday, December 25, 2020. It also became available in Canada for premium video-on-demand (PVOD) rental as of 12:00 noon Eastern time (9:00 a.m. PT, 1:30 p.m. NT) on December 25. The PVOD release has a suggested 48-hour rental price of $29.99, but some retailers began reducing the rental price in late January.
The full list of theatres, digital retailers, and TV service on-demand providers (such as Bell, Rogers, Shaw and Telus) where Wonder Woman 1984 is currently available is on the Warner Bros. Canada website. As of this update shortly after noon ET on December 25, digital retailers on which WW84 is now available for rental include the following:
- Amazon Prime Video Store (As of January 27, rental price has been reduced to $24.99)
- Apple TV / iTunes Store
- Cineplex Store
- Google Play Movies & TV
- Microsoft Movies & TV
While it is available for rental, Wonder Woman 1984 is not currently available as part of a streaming package in Canada:
- HBO Max – the WarnerMedia streaming service which is offering the film in the United States at no extra charge to its subscribers during its first month of release – is not currently available in Canada in a way that has been permitted by WarnerMedia.
- Crave, the Canadian streaming service which carries most HBO Max original programming here, does not have similar "day-and-date" access to Warner Bros. films under its deals with WarnerMedia, but has stated that it will carry the film at some point in 2021.
Read on for more details about why the release is being handled differently in Canada compared to the U.S.
What's all this about HBO Max streaming "WW84"?
On November 18, WarnerMedia announced that, in the United States, Wonder Woman 1984 will be released both in theatres and will be available for one month on its HBO Max streaming service, beginning on December 25, 2020. WarnerMedia (formerly Time Warner), a subsidiary of American telecom company AT&T since 2018, owns both HBO Max, which debuted earlier in 2020 as (in essence) a streaming extension of its HBO pay TV service, and the Warner Bros. film studio which produced and distributes WW84.
However, this so-called "day-and-date" or simultaneous release is strictly within the borders of the United States. HBO Max is not currently available outside the U.S., and Warner Bros. has not announced any similar simultaneous release plans for subscription streaming services outside the U.S., including partner services like Crave, or for that matter WarnerMedia's HBO streaming services in other parts of the world like Latin America or Asia.
What's happening in Canada?
Initially, Warner Bros. insisted that the film would debut internationally only in theatres, with a staggered release schedule starting in December 16, but with the Canadian release keeping the same December 25 date as the U.S.
But on December 11, in light of the worsening effects of the coronavirus pandemic throughout most of Canada, Warner Bros. announced that WW84 would have a simultaneous PVOD release in Canada on "participating digital platforms", also starting December 25.
Premium video-on-demand – also known as "Home Premiere" – is basically a way for studios to make money from at-home viewings of their films, at a level comparable to selling movie theatre tickets. However, as PVOD rentals can only be sold per household and not per viewer, the price point is generally significantly higher than cinema tickets in order to help compensate. Hence, as noted above, the suggested price per rental will be $29.99, not the typical $10 to $15 (or so) of a single movie ticket.
If that seems too steep of a price, keep in mind the "premium" part of PVOD will stick around for a while, but not indefinitely. The rental price should come down to regular digital rental prices a few months after release.
Didn't I see an article saying "WW84" would debut on "streaming" in Canada?
You might have seen something like this with a headline referring to "streaming services", but the body of the story clearly referring to "video-on-demand rental".
It's true that services like iTunes, Google Play, the Cineplex Store, and the Prime Video Store are Internet-based streaming media platforms. However, for the most part in the media industry, "streaming service" is used to refer to a subscription-based service like Netflix.
All of the outlets that could be initially offering WW84 in Canada – even the Prime Video Store – will be charging a specific rental fee just for this movie. None will be offering this access within a larger streaming service subscription, as is the case with HBO Max – at least not yet.
Will "WW84" be available on Crave? When? And why not now?
Bell Media has confirmed that Wonder Woman 1984 will be available on its pay TV / subscription streaming service Crave + Movies + HBO at some point in 2021, after it's gone through the theatrical and (regular) VOD release windows.
For other Warner Bros. films – even those released during the pandemic – these windows have typically lasted around eight to nine months after theatrical release, which would imply availability on Crave in (most likely) late summer or early fall 2021. (We gave some examples of how this has worked in the past for other Warner Bros. films in our article about The Witches.)
As we've noted elsewhere, although Crave has an output agreement with WarnerMedia for much of HBO Max's original programming, as well as a separate agreement for "pay-1" (first pay TV window) rights to Warner Bros. films – equivalent to the rights HBO had already held in the U.S. pre-Max – these agreements do not cover all HBO Max programming, or availability at the same times. Some programs have had to be handled through separate negotiations, if they were picked up by Crave at all.
Thus, a few other Warner Bros. movies that were given early or exclusive U.S. availability on HBO Max earlier in 2020, like Scoob! and The Witches, were not (or will not be) made available on Crave until much later. (Nor, for that matter, were they made available at the same time on WarnerMedia's HBO streaming services outside the U.S., such as those in Latin America, Europe, or Asia.)
WarnerMedia doesn't have any ownership stake in Crave, meaning it has little, if any, financial incentive to boost Crave's subscriber numbers. While we don't know the specifics of its agreements with Bell Media, our understanding is that the payments it's getting from Bell for HBO / Max programming are essentially guaranteed flat rates, regardless of the number of subscribers to Crave. In other words, trying to move the needle on Crave subscriptions would do little for WarnerMedia's bottom line.
Thus, in Canada, Warner would have a much greater financial incentive to try to get people to see WW84 in theatres (or through digital rentals) than it does in the U.S., where it seems to be hoping that revenue from new HBO Max subscriptions can at least partially offset those lost ticket sales.
It's possible that WB could have tried to negotiate some sort of additional payment from Crave in exchange for early streaming rights to WW84, that would compensate the studio (and other film profit participants) for the lost revenue. But if it was considered at all, it would have almost certainly taken much longer to settle than in the U.S., where the "negotiation" would have just been between two divisions of the same parent company.
Evidently, Warner Bros. ultimately decided that with theatres now likely to remain closed in most parts of Canada over the holiday season, it would be easiest (and most profitable) to go the PVOD route in Canada instead.
Why not just make HBO Max available directly in Canada?
First, we should reiterate that HBO Max hasn't launched anywhere outside the U.S. (and some U.S. territories) to date, so right now Canada is in the same boat as places like Mexico, Spain, and Norway, those three being among the countries where HBO already operates directly, but is not offering WW84 for now.
That said, there's no sign that any HBO Max launch is imminent here. Under contracts which were renewed and expanded in 2019, WarnerMedia has granted exclusive rights to most HBO and HBO Max original programming to Bell Media, operator of Crave, for several more years.
Of course, this was before WarnerMedia was considering day-and-date releases. But with those other HBO rights already signed away, there isn't really enough left over for Warner to launch even a cut-back streaming service for the Canadian market, at least until its deals with Bell Media expire.
If you're interested in more details about this (including some of the factors that have affected HBO's Canadian presence historically), we have longer discussions about this on our separate general posts about HBO and HBO Max.
- December 26, 2020 – added brief section about why HBO Max won't be launching directly in Canada in the near future
- December 20-25, 2020 – various updates and restructuring to emphasize where digital rentals will be available
- December 12-13, 2020 – updates following announcement of simultaneous PVOD release in Canada