After a very long wait, Black Widow is finally going to hit theaters in July. At that time, it will also be available on Disney+ through the Premier Access program, which means subscribers can pay an additional $30 to watch the much-anticipated Marvel movie from the comfort of home. This decision was a bit controversial, particularly from the theater side of the business. But Disney CEO Bob Chapek has defended the decision and explained how the company arrived at this release strategy.
Bob Chapek recently spoke J.P. Morgan's 49th annual Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference. During the chat, conversation turned toward Disney's distribution plans with big movies. At first, Chapek explained that a great deal of data is analyzed before a big decision regarding distribution is made.
"There's a whole bunch of data points we have to assimilate to make those decisions. The first consideration is, is it a big-tent theatrical franchise? If it is, something like a Marvel movie or a Lucas movie, something that's going to have legs, plays into a larger mythology."
The problem currently is that the box office, particularly in the U.S., is still recovering. Black Widow, under normal circumstances, would likely clear $1 billion at the global box office, or at the very least near that number. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a proven entity and Scarlett Johansson's character is wildly popular. Yet, as Bob Chapek revealed, it was about hedging bets from the business side of things.
"We've already delayed Black Widow a couple of times, we didn't want to delay it again. Yet, at the same time, we always knew there was a risk that exhibition wasn't going to be fully developed or consumers wouldn't want to go back and sit in theaters. So, we realized we had to sort of prime the pump and give theatrical exhibition a chance. We couldn't put all of our eggs in the theatrical exhibition basket because we knew that in the weeks leading up to the decision that the domestic market was not coming back. And it's still fairly weak. So, we're very confident that we made the right call there."
Indeed, Black Widow has been delayed several times already. And with the MCU, it's all connected. Marvel Studios and Disney have a huge slate of movies that have been delayed over the last year. That gets tricky when the next entry in a franchise relies on what came before. The studio simply couldn't wait any longer. The hybrid release, seemingly, gives them the best shot at turning a profit. Chapek also added that flexibility is going to be a key going forward.
"One of the things we learned is that flexibility is good. We're really celebrating that flexibility... we're trying to offer consumers more choice."
David Harbour, Florence Pugh, O-T Fagbenle and Rachel Weiss star alongside Scarlett Johansson. Cate Shortland is in the director's chair. Black Widow is currently set to arrive in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access on July 9. This news was previously reported by Deadline.