Space Jam: A New Legacy – the LeBron James-directed family comedy that serves as a sequel to the Michael Jordan original – is being brought directly to video-on-demand in India, although cinemas are open in most of the country. This is a first for any Hollywood studio in India; Black Widow, led by Scarlett Johansson, will do the same, but she has yet to grace Disney + Hotstar. For Warner Bros., Space Jam: A New Legacy is technically the third Warner Bros. film to skip theaters during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Previously, this was the Angelina Jolie-led neo-western action thriller Those Who Wish Me Death and the critically acclaimed adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights, but cinemas were largely closed at the time.
Warner Bros. ‘ Release strategy during COVID-19 remains curious. Space Jam: A New Legacy will be available on Apple TV, BookMyShow Stream, Google Play Movies, and YouTube Movies on Thursday, August 19th. That’s five weeks since it was released on HBO Max in the US and in theaters worldwide. With Those Who Wish Me Dead, Warner Bros. India waited four weeks before sending the title straight to video-on-demand. And the gap was seven weeks for In the Heights. There’s no consistency here, so it’s unclear how Warner decides when the time is right. What stopped the studio from dropping Space Jam: A New Legacy a week or two earlier? Or in line with HBO Max?
Perhaps it once had theatrical ambitions for Space Jam: A New Legacy. It’s an IMAX title, after all. In the Heights, however, it was like that, and it still skipped the cinemas. Additionally, the box-office potential of the Space Jam sequel was limited at the time of its release on HBO Max, with high-quality pirated content flooding the internet in less than an hour after it premiered in mid-July. Space Jam: A New Legacy would undoubtedly have made more of its on-demand release had Warner brought it to India back then. Those who really wanted to see LeBron James and Looney Tunes play basketball have likely already done so, which further limits the profit potential for a film that has given up the box office bucks.
For what it’s worth, Warner Bros. is doing better here than other Hollywood studios. Paramount Pictures / Viacom18 Studios are sticking to Emily Blunt-Starrer A Quiet Place Part II even though it is now available to streamed in the US on Paramount +. It might as well write off the Indian box office at this point. Disney has completely ditched the box office for Black Widow and Emma Stone-led Cruella as both join Disney + Hotstar, and it’s unclear what they’ll do with the Dwayne Johnson and Blunt-led Jungle Cruise. Universal Pictures is the most daring, and only takes its films – from Fast & Furious 9 to Promising Young Woman – to the big screen, despite the fact that they are several months old.
There are still opportunities here for studios to show that they really care about Indian viewers, as I argued before, but it doesn’t look like they are interested in moving forward any faster.