Racking up what industry bible Variety is calling “the biggest opening weekend haul in the coronavirus era”, superhero adventure Wonder Woman 1984 could set the template – and the budgets – for future blockbuster releases.

Who is she and why is she so wondrous?

She is actress Gal Gadot, and she’s wondrous because when she’s suited and booted she’s better known as Princess Diana of Themyscira, aka Wonder Woman, an Amazonian goddess who sees off assorted ne’er-do-wells with her glowing Lasso of Truth. She has proved one of the most popular characters in the DC Comics universe since her first appearance way back in 1941. As played by Gadot, she has only been around since 2017, when director Patty Jenkins helmed a reboot set against the backdrop of the first world war. Wonder Woman 1984 is its sequel and finds the ageless Diana now working as an anthropologist in the Smithsonian Museum. In 1984.

How big is the box office haul?

The film was released theatrically in around 2000 screens in the US and Canada on Christmas Day and Variety reports that it grossed £12.3 million in its opening weekend. That’s on top of international box office receipts of £29.1 million following its release in 39 territories, from mid-December onwards. Half of that figure came from China.

What was the film’s budget?

There’s the rub. The “biggest opening weekend haul in the coronavirus era” it may have been but it’s unlikely the film will recoup its £148 million budget any time soon. The same fate befell 2020’s other blockbuster film release, Christopher Nolan’s mind-bendingly complex thriller Tenet. It has made £273 million to date, which is more than its budget of £151 million but not enough to break even once marketing and promotional costs are factored in.

Is the pandemic to blame?

It is. When Wonder Woman 1984 opened theatrically in the UK on December 16 only about a quarter of cinemas were open. With mainland Scotland now in Level Four and huge swathes of the rest of the UK in virtual lockdown there are hardly any open at all. In response, studio Warner Bros. decided to release Wonder Woman 1984 on streaming platform HBO Max on the same day as it went into US cinemas, and based on that plan the studio subsequently announced that all of its 2021 releases would follow the same pattern. In other words cinemagoers won’t have to leave the comfort of their sofas in order to enjoy the latest blockbusters on the day of release. The results so far have been interesting and, for the studio bean counters, encouraging: HBO Max’s viewing hours per customer increased threefold over the Christmas period and nearly half of all subscribers watched Wonder Woman 1984 film on Christmas Day.

So is television the future of cinema?

With streaming giants such as Netflix ploughing more and more money into film production and the big film studios moving to digital home entertainment releases, it currently looks very like it – though if you can’t charge punters £10 a ticket to go to the cinema, budgets may have to be revised downwards to accommodate the change.