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Disney will test the limits of ‘franchise fatigue’ in 2021

Yahoo Finance’s Julie Hyman, Brian Sozzi, Myles Udland, and Dan Roberts discuss the release of ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ and 2021 box office outlook.

Video Transcript

- "Wonder Woman-- 1984" came out over the weekend. And it came out both on streaming and in theaters. That was a change that was much discussed. $16.7 million is how much it did in that opening. Our Dan Roberts is here to talk movies with us, although as he told us in the break, he didn't see "Wonder Woman-- 1984" quite yet because a lot of people didn't like it. But what do you make of how this rollout went?

DAN ROBERTS: Yeah, I think the rollout is what's so interesting here, Julie-- kind of separate from whether people liked the movie or not. And a lot of people did not like the movie, judging by Twitter. But the simultaneous release had been announced just for this movie long before Warner Brothers announced that it would do this with all of its 2021 movies.

You know, the theaters were kind of on board with this, just as a one-off. And then Warner Media kind of said, surprise, we're going to do this with all of our movies in 2021 as well. And I think one kind of detail in the plan that maybe being lost is that although it was simultaneously released in theaters and on HBO Max, it'll only stay on HBO Max for a month.

And that is the plan with all the rest of the Warner Brothers 2021 movies, the idea being to kind of hurry you up. So if you do want to see the movie, and you don't want to go to a theater, then you have to sign up for HBO Max. And you've got to do it sooner than later.

Now, Warner hasn't shared the numbers for the streams, but that $17 million in the box office on opening weekend is pretty decent. I mean, it would be decent even in a non-pandemic time, but it makes it the best opening during the pandemic. Of course, that's not saying much, but you know, better than "Tenet" did in the US, although that was a very limited release in US theaters.

And we still have a lot of theaters in the US closed, although most are open now. And that doesn't mean people are comfortable going. But I think as we move forward into the first few months of 2021, it'll be very interesting to see what happens with theaters. I mean, especially now that a vaccine is starting to be distributed, are we going to see more people comfortable going to a theater wearing a mask? It's still an indoor space, and a lot of people say, no, I'm not doing that.

Well, if there's a movie you want to see on HBO Max, and you're not ready to go to a theater, you're going to have to subscribe to HBO Max. So it's an interesting move. And you know, it was enough of a success that Warner Brothers has announced that it's hurrying up production on a third Wonder Woman movie. So you can judge by that.

- Well, Dan, let's pick that up and transition from the DC Universe over to Marvel and the story that you're working on, which is Disney's franchise fatigue problem they're facing in 2021. Now, you and I have discussed this for many years. I think that they've had a franchise fatigue issue for a while. But then again, I'm not really a franchise guy. And I think you watch all these movies that Disney puts out, all the different Marvel movies.

And pretty much they're all good, at least as far as I can tell from your reviews. And they haven't really screwed it up quite yet. "Lion King" was a little weird. Some of the "Star Wars" movies have been just so-so. But generally, Disney has nailed it. What's the risk you see next year?

DAN ROBERTS: Well, just quickly, let's separate out kind of Marvel-- that pillar-- Star Wars or Lucasfilm. And then you're right. There's all the Disney live-action remakes. Just personal, I'll mention I'm not a big fan of those. But it's worth saying that in the past, at least, judging by the track record of how these things did in the theaters, there hasn't been franchise fatigue.

I mean, the theory so far has not proven correct. You know, those "Star Wars" movies, even "Rise of Skywalker"-- the final one, which a lot of people said, you know, was a problem. Big, big "Star Wars" fans apparently hated it. I liked that movie. But you know, that did very well. They all make a billion dollars or more. I mean, all these Marvel movies are huge hits. "Avengers"-- biggest box office movie ever, the final "Avengers" movie.

Now, all that said, I do think that next year, 2021, and then into 2022, Disney is going to push this theory more than ever before. You know, let me just read here a quick list of Marvel shows. These are series that are coming to Disney Plus in 2021-- "WandaVision"; "Falcon and the Winter Soldier;" "Loki"; "What If...?" which is an animated series; "Ms. Marvel" series. I mean, all these, and then there's not a "Star Wars" spin-off series until 2022, with "Andor," which is a continuation of a character from "Rogue One."

But look, even if you're a Marvel fan, you know, you can't watch all this stuff, unless that's all you do with your free time is watch these shows. I mean, you just can't. I actually think that in 2020, Disney was pretty smart with only having a single original series on Disney Plus, and that was "The Mandalorian," which has been a mega success. I think arguably, Disney Plus, they've kind of taken it slow.

But now, they're about to hit the gas. And you know, it's hard to imagine that the quality can be the same consistently with these Marvel spin-off shows on Disney Plus as they've been with the movies. Because you're right. Even if you're not a Marvel fan, these MCU, Marvel Cinematic Universe, movies-- for the most part, they're all very good. I mean, you could say one is better than the other, but none of these are like kind of trashy.

Whereas arguably-- and sorry, guys, some of these DC movies-- "Aquaman"-- some of these movies are trashy. And Marvel tends to just have a higher quality level. But man, they are going to pump Disney Plus full of these original shows in 2021 and 2022. And I think it's a lot.

Now, that said, Disney Plus at this point is trying to compete with Netflix. And Netflix also has a kitchen sink approach, where there's just a ton of stuff. I just think it looks a little more obvious with Disney Plus because they are all parts of existing franchises. They're prequels, sequels, spin-offs of the "Star Wars" universe, the Marvel universe, and then kind of classic Disney animated movies being made into remakes or live action.

I mean, there's going to be a Cruella de Vil origin story movie, with Emma Stone playing young Cruella de Vil. At some point, you have to laugh at this stuff. But again, so far, it's all been pretty successful. But they are really going to push it next year.

- Yes, they are. And we'll see if it works. Meanwhile, my friend just texted me, "Wonder Woman-- 1984" was lame. So we'll see if we get some-- I hate watch ripple effect. Who knows? I thought it was fun and entertaining. Dan Roberts, thank you very much. Appreciate it. We will--