Initially set to release May 1, 2020, Scarlett Johansson's solo film Black Widow has finally been released on screens both big and small as it made its theatrical debut while also streaming on Disney+ Premier Access.
Black Widow didn't waste any time as it set the 2021 record for Fandango's pre-sale tickets before the July 9 opening. and during July 8 preview screenings, the first MCU film of the year brought in $13.2 million on Thursday night. This is the most in 2021 so far, beating F9's $7 million preview haul.
The dual release of Black Widow in theaters and on Disney+ is new territory for reporting on the monetary success of a blockbuster. Deadline had previously predicted that Black Widow could make between $80-$90 million opening weekend.
The 2021 opening record was Universal's F9. The Vin Diesel NOS-filled adventure made $70 million domestically, but Black Widow has just beaten that, even despite the earnings being split with the Disney+ side of things.
BLACK WIDOW MAKES $215 MILLION IN THEATERS AND DISNEY+
The Walt Disney Company announced in an official release that Black Widow made $215 million worldwide at the box office and through Disney+ via its $30 Premier Access.
The Scarlett Johansson-led film made $80 million at the domestic box office and $20 million in the US and Canada via Premiere Access. Internationally, Marvel Studios' latest flick made $78M at the box office and over $40M via Disney+ Premier Access.
This is the largest opening weekend since 2019's Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, and Black Widow generated $10 million more at the opening weekend box office than the previous 2021 leader, F9.
A part of the Disney press release was a quote from Kareem Daniel, Chairman of Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution. Daniel said that "Black Widow’s strong performance this weekend affirms our flexible distribution strategy of making franchise films available in theaters for a true cinematic experience and, as COVID concerns continue globally, providing choice to consumers who prefer to watch at home on Disney+.”
This official statement could possibly point to future simultaneous theater and Disney+ releases, or just reinforce that this was the correct distribution for Black Widow.
Alan Bergman, Chairman of Disney Studios Content also gave a statement celebrating the opening-weekend success of Black Widow, saying "it's incredible to see audiences enjoying Black Widow after two years without a new Marvel Studios film."
Bergman also alludes to this being the first Phase 4 movie as the MCU "enters a new era:"
"It’s incredible to see audiences enjoying Black Widow after two years without a new Marvel Studios film, and this spectacular opening weekend shows just how eager fans have been to see this beloved Avenger in her own story.
There’s no question it’s been worth the wait - Cate Shortland, Scarlett Johansson, and the Marvel Studios team have delivered an exceptional film that continues a legacy of creative excellence as the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands and enters a new era."
A BRIGHT FUTURE FOR MARVEL BLOCKBUSTERS
Unfortunately, The Direct's prediction of Black Widow grossing $95 million at the domestic box office came up about $15 million short. However, $100 million between theaters and Disney+ in the US and Canada is a grand success for Marvel's summer blockbuster.
Disney releasing these numbers comes as a bit of a surprise as they don't necessarily have to release the Premier Access earnings and haven't been inclined to in the past. For reference, Disney's Raya The Last Dragon and Cruella previously had their own theater and premium streaming release.
This is a new way to interpret their monetary success as releasing big-budget films like Black Widow onto a streaming service day-and-date was unprecedented pre-pandemic. The global health situation made studios like Disney put movies on Premier Access and caused Warner Brothers' decision to put all of their 2021 films on HBO Max for no additional cost.
One interesting note when considering the difference between movie ticket purchases and Premiere Access is that families would be saving money by spending $30 on Disney+ rather than purchasing three or more movie tickets at a theater. On the flip side, individual fans electing to watch from home are spending a premium compared to the average movie ticket price.
Looking ahead, Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings on September 3 is set to release exclusively in theaters. It will have a 45-day theatrical run, then it may be available on Disney+ or for purchase on VOD.
Disney President Bob Chapek previously said this Black Widow Premier Access release was because "the domestic market was not coming back" in time for a theater-only release. Could Black Widow's dual success change Disney's mind on that front?
As Black Widow succeeds in theaters and on Disney+, maybe this could become the norm. But for now, this will be the one and only MCU flick to not release exclusively in theaters.
How will you be seeing Black Widow? Stream it now on Disney+ Premier Access or see it in theaters worldwide.