We live in a new day and age when it comes to movies and the box office. Long the litmus test for a movie’s financial grade, the box office receipts might be playing a smaller and smaller factor in determining a movie’s success. And when we look back on it, Scarlett Johansson and Black Widow might be one of those inflection points for the industry. That’s because Deadline is reporting that the movie is actually doing better, in terms of dollars on Disney+ than it is in the actual theaters. We might be looking at a new world order when it comes to movies hitting the big screen.
Deadline is using numbers from Samba TV, a company that tracks smart TV viewing habits. While the software isn’t on all televisions or devices, it can give a sense of what is happening with certain buying trends and give a larger picture of the landscape for what viewers are purchasing. According to their numbers, around two million households have purchased the movie through Disney+ since it was first released on July 9th. That meant Scarlett Johansson and company landing in a lot of living rooms. Again, they are giving estimates here based on overall trends for the millions of televisions they have access to, but this would put the Disney+ premiere dollar number at around $132 million for the platform.
Scarlett Johansson and Black Widow took a thumping at theaters for its second weekend, registering as the biggest week-to-week drop-off the Marvel Cinematic Universe had seen with its films. It turned in just $26 million in theaters for its second week. A paltry number indeed. While this number would, in the old days, point to a lagging interest in the movie on a macro level, it needs to be compared and reconciled with the option to stream it immediately on Disney+.
This is, almost for sure, a major factor in the numbers declining for the second week. Over the first two weeks of its run, the actual box office totals are sitting at around $267 million. That looks bad compared to the estimated $200 million budget, but again you need to tack on the Disney+ number as well to get a more accurate picture.
While Disney+ might be happy with the results for Scarlett Johansson and Black Widow, movie theaters are fuming. They see the decision to run the Disney+ premiere in parallel with the theater release as incredibly short-sighted. While this might sound a little like whining about a bad result in a new paradigm in movie premieres, at least one part of their point is salient. The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO which kind of feels funny in this context) says that the premiere access numbers shouldn’t be celebrated because those Premium Video on Demand (PVOD) dollars are typically there after a movie has finished its theater run. Getting the money upfront at the cost of fewer butts in seats might ultimately kill the upside on the film. There is some chance that they could have double-dipped the dollars with fans buying tickets to see it in theaters and then again a month or more later when it came out on PVOD. By having it available right away they removed this chance.
Whether this Scarlett Johansson performance at the box office and on Disney+ spells a new trend in movies remains to be seen. Time will tell if all streamers go in this direction. And the rest test will be whether Disney+ decides to do it again.