Black Widow has finally arrived in theaters and the early numbers suggest that Disney was right to hold off as long as they did. The latest from Marvel Studios pulled in a pandemic-era record $13.2 million during Thursday night previews. That means Scarlett Johansson's first solo movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is on track for a massive opening weekend total, which is just what the movie business needs right now.
F9, aka Fast & Furious 9, notched the previous box office record for pandemic-era Thursday previews a few weeks ago taking in $7.1 million, on its way to a $70 million opening weekend. Prior to that, A Quiet Place Part II set the bar with $4.8 million. But the MCU is the biggest franchise around and it has been two full years since Spider-Man: Far From Home hit theaters. Fans are eager to return to this universe, as evidenced by Thursday's haul. Prior to the record-setting preview night, Black Widow had been tracking for an opening weekend between $80 and $90 million. The movie now has a real shot at crossing the $100 million mark domestically come Monday morning, if all goes well. It would be the first movie to accomplish that feat since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in December 2019.
Prior to its release, Fandango reported that Black Widow was its highest-selling movie, in terms of pre-sales, all year. It was even ahead of Doctor Strange and Spider-Man: Homecoming. For the sake of comparison, Doctor Strange pulled in $9.4 million in previews back in 2016 on its way to an $85 million opening weekend. Spider-Man: Homecoming, meanwhile, pulled in $15.4 million in previews, with a huge $117 million opening weekend total. That bodes well for Black Widow, though this situation is admittedly quite different.
First and foremost, every other MCU movie up to this point was initially released exclusively in movie theaters. That is not the case with Black Widow. Director Cate Shortland's solo adventure for Natasha Romanoff is also available on Disney+ through Premier Access. This is a form of premium VOD that allows subscribers to watch the movie from home right now for an extra $30. It remains to be seen how that will cut into the movie's overall box office potential this weekend. It's certainly conceivable that Thursday night was front-loaded with especially eager fans. Things may taper off as the weekend rolls on. But it is all but assured that Black Widow will eclipse F9's $70 million opening weekend to set a new 2021 record.
Scarlett Johansson has been a part of the MCU since 2010's Iron Man 2. While fans lobbied for her to get a solo movie for a long time, it finally happened and was intended to be the kickoff for Marvel's Phase 4 slate. But the movie was delayed several times, originally expected in May 2020. This year will see three movie MCU entires debut in theaters with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home all on the way. And all three of those movies are expected to have exclusive theatrical runs. Black Widow is in theaters now. This news was previously reported by Variety.