In the wake of this weekend’s box-office numbers, movie theater owners and operators have slammed Disney over its release strategy in regards to Marvel Studios’ “Black Widow”.
The film opened on Friday July 9th and on its opening weekend managed $80 million at the domestic box-office and $78 million globally. In an unprecedented move, Disney also announced that the movie raked in a further $60 million from a day-and-date ‘Premier Access’ option via the Disney+ service worldwide.
That was the biggest opening by far since the pandemic began and a soft – but far from the lowest – Marvel opening weekend. Concerns were raised though when the film suffered a steep second-day drop.
Then this weekend’s box-office numbers came out and the alarm bells sounded. ‘Widow’ dropped by 67% in its second weekend to a $26.5 million domestic haul. That’s the steepest drop of an MCU film to date – easily beating the 61-62% drops of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp”.
“F9: The Fast Saga,” the other big blockbuster opening of late, also saw the exact same 67% drop on its second weekend though that film’s second week fell on the July 4th holiday which likely impacted results.
Disney also pointedly did not report any ‘Premier Access’ numbers in its second weekend, leaving us with just the one-off number which is sizable but remains frustratingly vague.
Now, exhibitors are mad and they’re letting everyone know as they’ve slammed Disney claiming they’ve left money on the table by putting Marvel’s “Black Widow” on Disney+ day-and-date.
The National Association of Theatre Owners, the industry’s main lobbying arm, released a twelve-paragraph statement taking aim at the $200-million budgeted “Black Widow” for its “stunning second-weekend collapse in theatrical revenues” and overall underperforming. Here’s a sample:
“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 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. The most important answer is that simultaneous release is a pandemic-era artifact that should be left to history with the pandemic itself.”
They add that they predicted that “Black Widow” would have secured an opening weekend closer to $100 million domestic had it not been on the Disney+ service. They also contend that approximately 15% of Disney’s ‘Premier Access’ revenue goes to the various platforms like Roku and Apple TV through which consumers can access Disney Plus.
In addition, the release on Disney+ cuts into downstream revenues like traditional PVOD and VOD, and the good quality digital copy feeds piracy which they say: “no doubt further affected Black Widow’s performance, and will affect its future performance in international markets where it has yet to open.”
What was a highly contentious relationship at the best of times has shifted thanks to the pandemic with the power base now overwhelmingly in favour of film distributors rather than exhibitors who have been crippled by both COVID-19 and the various day-and-date releases of major movies.
The two highest-grossing movies of the year so far, “A Quiet Place Part II” and “F9,” were only available in theaters at first. That said plenty of people, vaccinated or not, have expressed hesitations about returning to the movies and the highly contagious Delta variant is making headlines and leading to lockdowns around the world right now.