Black Widow’s Record-Breaking Pandemic Opening Weekend Box Office Numbers May Not be Worth Celebrating

Black Widow’s Record-Breaking Pandemic Opening Weekend Box Office Numbers May Not be Worth Celebrating

At first glance, Marvel Studios had a seemingly stellar weekend with the release of its latest superhero film, Black Widow. The drama broke the pandemic-era opening weekend box office record when it earned over $215 million globally between its opening night last Thursday, July 8, and yesterday, Sunday, July 11.

The Walt Disney Company also announced that in the U.S. alone, the movie earned $80 million in theatrical ticket sales. The film also garnered an additional $60 million from people who watched it on Disney+ Premier Access this past weekend. The company, however, declined to disclose how much of that $60 million came from domestic Disney+ subscribers.

However, even though those numbers propelled Black Widow to the top of the pandemic-era opening weekend box office chart, only a small fraction chose to pay extra to watch the drama at home. That puts the future of the day-and-date theatrical and streaming release model for bigger studio movies into question.

Hollywood studios, particularly Disney, Universal and Warner Bros., have been releasing movies day-and-date on streaming platforms and in theaters for approximately a year now, since the national lockdown began to lift following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the studios have reported theatrical box office revenue each week, they’ve never divulged actual VOD numbers before Black Widow.

David A. Gross, who runs the film consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, proclaims that even though its opening weekend numbers seem impressive, Black Widow’s digital performance is ultimately cutting into the feature’s overall opening weekend revenue, Variety is reporting. He feels that despite 19 percent of theaters in the U.S. and Canada still closed, the drama’s hybrid distribution may continue to reduce its overall digital earning potential moving forward. “I am still certain that the theatrical money would be bigger without the simultaneous streaming,” he noted.

Black Widow did start the weekend strong on Friday, earning $39.5 million, but ticket sales dropped 41% on Saturday, to $22 million. Marvel Studios was hoping the solo movie for the title character, who was played by Scarlett Johansson, would be on par with the debuts of its other standalone films.

Following the reports of its second day ticket return, it became apparent that the latest MCU entry no longer had a chance of earning $100 million in its opening weekend. Despite the fact that Black Widow didn’t gross the $100 million mark, the studio still claimed yesterday that the movie earned the highest domestic opening weekend for a MCU origin story after the Oscar-winning Black Panther and Captain Marvel.

Despite Black Widow not hitting Marvel Studios and Disney’s goal of earning $100 million over its opening weekend, the drama, which was directed by Cate Shortland, still became the top pandemic-era box office domestic debut. The superhero film out-grossed the opening weekends of F9, ($70 million); A Quiet Place Part II ($47.5 million); Godzilla vs. Kong ($31.6 million); The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It ($24.1 million); Mortal Kombat ($23.3 million); Cruella ($21.1 million); and Wonder Woman 1984 ($16.7 million).

Godzilla vs. Kong and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Mortal Kombat and Wonder Woman 1984 were simultaneously released in theaters and on HBO Max. Cruella, like Black Widow, was simultaneously distributed in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access.

The under performance of Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984 is the latest surprising downward spiral of superhero movies. While the pandemic has slowed the theatrical grosses of all genres, fans and critics alike also expressed their displeasure with several other entries in the superhero genre last year. Birds of Prey and The New Mutants both failed to connect with fans; the later didn’t even manage to make back its budget.

Disney+ subscribers can currently rent Black Widow for $30 on Premier Access. The movie will also be made available to all Disney+ customers for no extra charge on October 6.

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