Black Widow, the long-awaited Marvel movie that gives fans a better understanding of Scarlett Johansson’s popular character, has just set a Marvel record. The Disney-owned studio is used to setting records, but not like this. This time around, it’s a terrible one that is going to probably be marked down as a lesson in film releases as movie theaters attempt to find their way in a world with films that release on streaming at the same time as they do in theaters. Black Widow just saw its second weekend in theaters. The numbers are in, and the drop from opening weekend to the second weekend in theaters saw a record descent of 67.5% in box office sales.
Opening weekend saw Black Widow earn $215 million when Disney added in international numbers and Disney+ Premier Access figures. It was unusual for Disney to offer up the earnings from a streaming release and it wasn’t something they did on the second weekend. It isn’t something we’re expecting they’ll do in the future, either. At just the domestic box office, the Scarlett Johansson solo movie for Marvel earned $80 million, which was a record setting number for the domestic box office since the pandemic began forcing movie theaters to close up for lockdowns. During the second weekend in movie theaters, Black Widow earned $26 million at the worldwide box office. Again, that’s a drop of 67.5%, which is just unheard of from a Marvel movie.
Scarlett Johansson, Black Widow, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe have a huge fan base. It’s unlikely that everyone who wants to see the movie had already seen it after that first opening weekend. It is however likely that people are both streaming the movie on Disney+ Premier Access and pirating the film to watch at home. While pirating is a factor, the hybrid release with Disney+ for streaming is a new player and one that movie theaters are bound to be distressed about.
The Marvel movie was released on Disney+ with Premier Access at the same time that it was released in movie theaters. While some streamers, like HBO Max, are releasing their new films for streaming to all of their subscribers, Disney+ Premier Access means that the new releases cost an additional $30 to watch. While this means people could watch it at home, fans did go to the theaters to see the new release. After waiting so long for a solo Scarlett Johansson movie, audiences that prefer the movie theater experience came out in droves to show their support and celebrate their excitement to be able to return to the theater and see a superhero film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe once again.
However, the opening weekend box office saw a big drop in numbers from the Thursday and Friday showings to the Saturday showings, when more of the casual moviegoers show up to see a film in theaters. While there is often a drop from the first showings into Saturday, there was some concern about how huge this drop was for Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. That concern has proven to be founded since its second weekend out has seen a huge loss for this Marvel film. While some are blaming this on the streaming release model, others are pointing at the Delta variant and suggesting that staying home to stream a movie still makes sense for a large portion of American audiences.
Does this record drop mean that Marvel will change their strategy for future releases? Can we expect that movie theaters will force new deals that make them put off streaming their new releases? For a company as large as Disney, it seems like they may be able to do whatever it best for their bottom line, and if Disney+ Premier Access is still earning them high figures, that may be where their focus remains. We’ll have to watch and see how Disney reacts to these figures from the Scarlett Johansson release, and how movie theaters respond to that for future movies.