Scarlett Johansson's solo film, Black Widow, has finally been released in theaters and on Disney+ via Premier Access after a 14-month delay.
The film got off to a hot start at the box office, earning $13.2 million during its Thursday night previews in the U.S. and Canada. That's the highest of the year, and Variety reported that Black Widow made over $40 million on Friday and is on pace for possibly more than $90 million opening weekend.
The Direct previously predicted it would make $95 million opening weekend at the domestic box office.
While Black Widow is having early success in the U.S. and other international markets, Marvel Studios' latest has yet to release in China. Historically, the China box office has been the most fruitful for Marvel films after the domestic earnings.
Why hasn't China released the MCU's latest yet? A new report explained just that.
BLACK WIDOW WAITING FOR AUGUST RELEASE IN CHINA
In a recent article from Variety, writer Rebecca Davis wrote that China is hesitant to put foreign films in theaters while celebrating "the critical 100th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party’s founding on July 1."
During July, theaters are filled with local propaganda tribute films along with militant censorship across all media that will likely last longer than just July. These local July releases include films 1921, The Pioneer, and Chinese Doctors.
An unnamed local blogger mentioned in June that the odds of Black Widow releasing during this anniversary month were "approaching zero." They further elaborated that "even ‘main melody’ [propagandistic] movies like ‘Chinese Doctors’ are facing strict censorship, let alone Hollywood films."
Local reports speculated that the Scarlett Johansson-starring Black Widow could ultimately be released in mid-August, but this is from unverified sources.
THE MONETARY IMPORTANCE OF THE CHINESE BOX OFFICE
A major issue with Black Widow releasing a month or two after everywhere else in the world is that because of the Disney+ day-and-date release, pirated versions are extremely high quality.
Variety found pirated videos already available on "unauthorized Chinese file sharing and streaming sites." Many illegal copies come in 1080p or 4k, possible Dolby Atmos sound, and Chinese subtitles.
A similar pirating situation for Mulan earlier this year resulted in mediocre box office results. The live-action retelling made only $23 million opening weekend and $41 million total at the Chinese box office. The film was only available through Disney+'s Premier Access in the U.S.
For reference, Vin Diesel's F9 has made nearly $204 million in China since it opened on May 21. Marvel Studios' most recently released film before Black Widow, Spider-Man: Far From Home, made about $199 million in China.
If Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow had opened on July 9, 2021 in China, it wouldn't have come as a surprise if it made over $90 million opening weekend and grossed around $200 million during its time in theaters.
However, if/when the film releases, many believe the number will be dramatically deflated due to high-definition, easy-access pirated versions on the internet.
A BLEAK 2021 FOR MARVEL IN CHINA
As previously reported, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals weren't included in an upcoming MCU movie list for the CCTV6 China Movie Channel. This move made many doubt that either film would have any theatrical release in the country.
Eternals director Chloe Zhao was born in China but has been critical of the country, calling it “a place where there are lies everywhere.” A movie partially set in China, Shang-Chi used possibly offensive stereotypes in the comics such as the villain, Fu Manchu.
Even though the character isn't in the film, as well as the Dragon Fin Fang Foom, it doesn't seem like the Chinese government has any plan to play the movie in its country.
Despite no controversy around Black Widow, it may also suffer financially from not receiving a normal China box office haul. In 2019, a record-breaking year for the box office, Avengers: Endgame made a historic $629 million in China.
Still battling a global pandemic, the box office remains uncertain. Black Widow, Shang-Chi, and Eternals may not get the international box office reception as previous MCU flicks, but the domestic box office is on its way to normality.