It is no secret at this point that Marvel's Black Widow has not performed quite as well as expected at the box office. While it did boast a pandemic-record $80 million opening weekend, the movie has since plummeted and has earned far less than the vast majority of other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies Now, IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond has commented on the matter, squarely blaming the studio's release strategy, which involved a streaming release on Disney+ as well.
During a recent earnings call, Rich Gelfond spoke about Black Widow. Theater operators have been waiting on blockbusters to bring moviegoers back out in droves. This was the first Marvel movie to arrive in more than two years. It was a big deal. But Disney's decision to make it available on Disney+ Premier Access, which lets subscribers pay an additional $30 to watch it at home, in addition to theaters, hurt its box office potential. Not just because it was available on Disney+, but because that opened the door for mass piracy. Here's what Gelfond had to say about it.
"There's really no question in my mind that the combination of PVOD and a lot of piracy, people haven't really talked about it that much, clearly, there's a lot of piracy that accounted for the cannibalization, and it significantly affected the box office at the end of the day."
To date, Black Widow, which serves as Scarlett Johansson's first (and likely only) solo MCU movie, has earned just $319 million at the box office to date. To illustrate how much money Disney may have left on the table, Gelfond used F9, the latest Fast & Furious movie, as a basis for comparison.
"It's hard to quantify it, but some statistics I find interesting is that F9, which is the more traditional distribution model, will gross about $700 million worldwide at the end of its run, and Black Widow will gross half of that. Black Widow was a great movie, so when I think about it, there was no doubt a lot of money was left on the table."
Indeed, F9's total currently sits at $623 million. While Black Widow made $60 million through Disney+ over its first weekend of release, it's difficult to say if that revenue will make up for what was lost at the box office. Speaking further, the CEO talked, in broader terms, about Disney's experimenting with its release strategies.
"Every studio has seen the same data that Disney has seen. What Disney did is experiment during the pandemic, which is what they said they were going to do. I remember [Disney CEO] Bob Chapek saying at one of their investor days that when times are normal, he thinks theatrical is important, exclusivity is important and I think when he looks at his data and the pandemic is in the rearview mirror that he'll come to the same conclusion that everyone else does: The way to maximize value is to have a theatrical window."
The exclusive theatrical window has shrunk dramatically as a direct result of the pandemic. But things are still complicated and being worked out before our eyes. Case in point, Scarlett Johansson recently filed a lawsuit against Disney, alleging she missed out on a great deal of money that would have come her way based on the box office performance of Black Widow. That is a bad look for the studio, especially if they hope to work with Johansson in the future. This news was previously reported by JoBlo.