Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe finally begin last week with the release of WandaVision on Disney+. It had been a long time coming, as the last entry in the MCU was released all the way back in July 2019 with Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Although WandaVision announced Phase 4'a arrival, wasn't always the planned start to this new era of Marvel. No, that honor was once in the hands of Black Widow.
Though, as we all know, Coroavirus swept through the world and upended the entire industry, causing delays on an unprecedented scale. Marvel's entire upcoming slate of films had to be re-organized, with a vast majority of them getting completely new release dates. This also included these projects releasing in a brand new order.
Even almost a year later, the future of theatrical releases remains unclear. While the entire Disney+ slate seems safe and set in stone, with Falcon & The Winter Soldier set for March 19th, their films are a different story. With Black Widow set for May 7th, 2021, it's set right on the edge of the timeframe where things may or may not be improving.
Variety has now added to the conversation, for a second time in the past several weeks, to give some insight on what we can expect for films with a planned release in 2021.
Variety recently published an article going over their expectations of the big film release dates in 2021. Within, they touched upon Black Widow, saying the following:
"As for 'Black Widow', expect the 2020 delay treatment should the theater situation not improve over the spring. Since it's the first 2020s film from the franchise that propelled the studio to a now fictional-seeming $11 billion global gross in 2019, another delay before a last-ditch Disney+ release is more likely to occur. "
WHAT THIS MEANS
As mentioned above, just last week, Variety reported just the opposite in regard to Black Widow. Saying that Walt Disney Studios is considering releasing Black Widow concurrently in both theaters and on Disney+ at a premium price--similar to that of their plans for Disney Animation's Raya and the Last Dragon in March. It's important to note that this is all speculation from on industry expert, with no concrete facts in play. With how everything is currently, and was throughout last year, it's no surprise that things are still very much in flux and could change at the drop of a hat.
Given HBO's recent move, even despite the backlash it received from those in the industry, it's hard to believe that some sort of hybrid release isn't in the cards. If Wonder Woman can find success with that method, I have no doubts that Black Widow would blow away expectations. It seems unlikely that Disney would be considering any other plans. With how in flux everything is, and the wide reaching effects that the pandemic as had on both the industry and public gatherings, it would be reckless for Disney to not be banking on that hybrid release structure.
That being said though, I wouldn't expect official word on any changes to Black Widow's release until much closer to its debut--potentially even just weeks before. They really don't have much reason to, seeing as some theaters will still be open no matter what choice they make. So adding that hybrid strategy last minute wouldn't hurt the film's success. Needless to say though, don't go expecting Black Widow to be a solely Disney+ release. It's also much more likely to have the premium tier pricing that Mulan had, as opposed to Soul's free addition to their service on Christmas Day.