Movie Theater Owners Blame Marvel’s ‘Black Widow’ Box Office ‘Collapse’ on Disney Plus Launch – What's new drama?

Movie Theater Owners Blame Marvel’s ‘Black Widow’ Box Office ‘Collapse’ on Disney Plus Launch

Black Widow Marvel

Movie theater operators did not mince words in asserting that Disney left money on the table by putting Marvel’s “Black Widow” on Disney Plus on the same day as its theatrical debut.

Disney announced in March that “Black Widow,” among several of its 2021 films, would premiere simultaneously on the studio’s subscription-based streaming service — for a premium $30 price — and on the big screen while the struggling movie theater industry regained its footing. On July 9, “Black Widow” opened to $80 million in the U.S. and Canada, setting a COVID-era box office record. Disney padded the film’s final weekend tally by reporting the Scarlett Johansson-led comic book adventure collected an additional $60 million worldwide on Disney Plus. That pushed its global haul past $200 million.

“Despite assertions that this pandemic-era improvised release strategy was a success for Disney and the simultaneous release model, it demonstrates that an exclusive theatrical release means more revenue for all stakeholders in every cycle of the movie’s life,” the statement said.

Without a hybrid release, NATO predicts that “Black Widow” would have secured a much larger opening weekend, somewhere north of $92 to $100 million. And while the film soared past the opening weekends of recent releases like “A Quiet Place 2” and “F9,” its ticket sales quickly dropped off. In its sophomore outing, “Black Widow” collected $26 million, a huge 69% decline. Or, as NATO put it, a “stunning second weekend collapse in theatrical revenues.”

Disney declined to comment. However, insiders say the company is attempting to reach customers at every comfort level while the world emerges from COVID. It’s also worth noting the pandemic hasn’t entirely abated, and even vaccinated people have expressed hesitations about returning to the movies. Adding to anxieties, the highly contagious Delta variant has driven a spike in infections and forced Los Angeles, the largest moviegoing market in the country, to reinstate its mask mandate. Despite actor Vin Diesel’s loud proclamation, cinema isn’t entirely back just yet.

In the case of “Black Widow,” NATO claims its financial upside isn’t as robust as some initially perceived. When it comes to box office grosses, studios have to split the profits 50-50 with movie theater owners. (Disney tends to get a more favorable split due to its box office dominance.) It gets an even larger chunk of change from digital transactions. However, NATO highlights, the studio doesn’t get to keep all of the money from online rentals. Approximately 15% of revenue goes to the various platforms, like Roku and Apple TV, through which consumers can access Disney Plus. Per NATO, early analysis of the film also failed to consider that its release on Disney Plus cuts into downstream revenues.

“It ignores that Premier Access revenue is not new-found money, but was pulled forward from a more traditional PVOD window, which is no longer an option,” the statement reads. “Combined with the lost theatrical revenue and forgone traditional PVOD revenue, the answer to these questions will show that simultaneous release costs Disney money in revenue per viewer over the life of the film.”

NATO adds, “Piracy no doubt further affected Black Widow’s performance, and will affect its future performance in international markets where it has yet to open.” According to the website TorrentFreak, “Black Widow” was the most pirated movie of the week. All the while, Disney Plus subscribers have the ability to share their password with other households, potentially limiting the number of individual transactions. NATO says Disney isn’t alone in these particular threats. It was also the case for other day-and-date releases, such as “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Mortal Kombat,” two Warner Bros. titles that premiered on HBO Max. “How much money did everyone lose to simultaneous release piracy?” NATO asks. It’s one of many pressing inquiries that may remain unanswered.

“The many questions raised by Disney’s limited release of streaming data opening weekend are being rapidly answered by ‘Black Widow’s’ disappointing and anomalous performance,” NATO said. “The most important answer is that simultaneous release is a pandemic-era artifact that should be left to history with the pandemic itself.”