For some reason I couldn't sleep tonight. Thought I'd binge some more Friends Episodes on HBO Max. The Hero Image stopped me cold. Wonder Woman 1984 is going to released phygitally in 2020. COVID has struck once again.
Wonder Woman 1984 will be released in Physical Theaters as well as released digitally on HBO Max, Love the move on DC Comics/Warner Brothers here to release a valued asset like a blockbuster movie through physical & digital channels. And I think there's some observations here with implications for the church.
1) 2021: People Want Phygital
People are not looking for physical-only solutions. As I'm writing this post November 2020 COVID numbers continue to soar, and many are predicting a brutal COVID winter. In this season, we're seeing this even effect our churches, where just 30-40% of pre-COVID attendance has made it back to the building. Warner Brothers plan for Wonder Woman 1984 is a great blueprint for the church. Let's release the movie physically, like we normally would. We'll get some people in the physical space, but we need to release it digitally to maximize exposure. Church, 2021 is not the time to back off your digital strategy. It's time to amplify it.
2) Future of Church Buildings? Look to the Theater!
Like it or not... Church in America in recent years has been settled around experiences. Cue the haze machine! We need moving lights! Let's fix that audio mix. (I'm a Live Production guy at heart). Theaters, similarly, have based their success off of creating experiences.in their buildings. IMAX Video. Dolby Surround Sound. THX. Subwoofer attached to each chair. Theaters provide a powerful environment to show these motion pictures.
People who's lives have been impacted by Christ, and who are loyal to your church, will stay involved in the building (mostly). But our ones? The people our Churches are called to reach for Christ? Simply put, are people cold to Christ (and your church) interested in coming to a building for a Sunday morning experience to learn about Christ? Are these same people interested in going to a physical building to watch a movie on Saturday night? Time will tell. How unchurched culture will recognize church buildings I believe can be foreshadowed in how culture supports movie theaters.
3) Connecting with People Christmas Day
As a church staffer, I would hate it when Christmas Day fell on Sunday. Odds are the church I worked at would feel social pressure to do a church service Christmas Day, which meant we would try to line up staff and volunteer coverage for services, separating people from their families Christmas day. All that for minimal attendance. Truth is, at least in my experiences, few people actually want to come to church Christmas Day. The call of family on the holiday is strong, especially when Christmas Eve traditionally has such a strong draw in Churches.
This is the beauty of digital, though. Instead of breaking family tradition asking people to come to physical church on Christmas Day, what if we created digital content Christmas Day. I'm not even thinking a "service format." Maybe it's a video where you're reading the Christmas story, accompanied with creative elements. Or it's a 5 minute sermonette digitally distributed. Maybe it's a super-cut of all the worship songs from your December services on a YouTube playlist. A testimony video of someone who's struggled on Christmas Day... so many creative options! Notice, I'm not say "engaging" with people. I'm not sure you do chat and all that. But utilize the spiritual nature of Christmas Day to connect with people via content, and give people a clear action step to connect back with you. Find ways to work this content into people's Family Christmas Traditions.
If Warner Brothers/HBO Max think people have time on Christmas Day to watch a two hour movie digitally, then you have an opportunity to connect with people digitally. Don't sleep on paid ads. Create content that truly is aimed at your institutional ones, or create shareable content that you can empower your 99 to share with their ones.
4) Don't Be Afraid to Partner w/Others. Shared Exposure Win.
I admit, this one is half-baked. Maybe you can fully bake it for me?
Warner Brothers needed to distribute their DC Comics content. They created a digital channel several years ago called DC Universe. It was impressive (and I'm not a DC guy). Lots of assets. TV Shows. Movies. Cartoons. I tried a demo for a week. Gave up. Watched the stuff I wanted to. Rumor is, DC Universe isn't financially successful, and Warner Brothers (in addition to DC Universe) has moved their old and new content over to HBO Max.
HBO Max is a relatively new player in the digital channel space. They need subscribers at their $15.99/mo rate. It makes sense (and hopefully cents) for Warner Brothers/DC and HBO Max to partner together. HBO Max needs content that will attract viewers and Warner Brothers/DC needs an audience.
Who in your physical or digital community is looking for Christmas content? How can you serve them with digital Christmas content? Or even ongoing relationships centered around providing content? How can you connect with audiences you've never connected with before because they're not your audience... they're someone else's. Maybe it's not as important for us to build our audience as it is to connect and disciple people/organizations who have audiences. (Like I said, half-baked.)
5) Redefining Success
I had to dig in on Google to really find the strategy in this. Essentially, Wonder Woman 1984 will only be on HBO Max for one month before HBO loses exclusive rights and the digital asset moves over to iTunes, Prime Video, etc to sell. Here's the plan:
- Dec 25: WonderWoman 1984 debuts in theaters. Warner Brothers gets Physical Box Office Receipts.
- Dec 25: Put Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max for a month to maximize exposure and HBO will pay Warner Brothers a licensing fee.
- January 25, Warner Brothers will start selling Wonder Woman 1984 on normal channels, iTunes, Prime Video, etc.
- At some point, Wonder Woman 1984 will likely go back to HBO Max for a while.
- Of course, DC has their own digital network "DC Universe" that Wonder Woman 1984 will release on at some point to their subscribers.
20 years ago, Warner Brothers defined success based on Box Office Sales. Nickels & Noses. 20 years ago that was the only way to succeed. Observe here, it's a business... all those nickels are still important. But the methods are changing. Instead of a centralized "one way" to measure success, an intentional strategy is needed and the metrics vary.
Church, the same challenges we face on counting attenders? Well, that's happening with Wonder Woman 1984. I would have paid $50 probably to take my family of four to see the movie in a theater (pre-COVID). But now, I'll watch it for free in my house with those four people. Truthfully, I don't even pay for my HBO Max account as I get it for free from AT&T. Point is that we need to find new metrics to celebrate because butts in seats makes little sense in 2020.
Bet you didn't think you'd be reading a blog paralleling Wonder Woman to your church today? So, what's your takeaway?