Earning a dubious, albeit flattering, award, Marvel Studios' Black Widow has recently taken the no. 1 spot as the most pirated film of the pandemic era. Torrent Freak released a chart of the most pirated films of the week, and Black Widow has now been no.1 for two weeks in a row - putting it in a category of its own. Although the news is not surprising due to the huge cultural relevance that Black Widow has, it does highlight one of the major problems that streaming movies have in the modern era.
Black Widow has been breaking records at the box office in terms of money made during the COVID-19 pandemic. It made a very solid $80 million in its opening weekend in the U.S., while also crushing it oversees. However, it was also the first MCU film to also simultaneously release as a paid premier access film on Disney+. Disney reported that Black Widow made roughly $60 million through its premier access viewings, which if true is quite impressive. Due to the pandemic and an online streaming presence, Black Widow fell drastically at the box office in its second weekend (for Marvel standards, at least). Also, one of the big issues that it has faced is pirating, and now there is proof that it is losing quite a bit of money through piracy.
One of the most notorious problems facing streaming films is piracy. The reason that streaming films face this issue more directly than exclusive theater releases is due to quality. When a film is released for streaming, it is much easier to copy the film and provide an HD version of the film ready to be pirated. Theater films, however, face a lower risk because there is no HD copy of the film - deterring potential pirates. Just look at the top 10 most pirated films of the week: nine out of the ten films exist on a streaming platform. That's why The Tomorrow War was no. 1 for a while despite an arguably bigger film like F9 being in theaters.
Marvel Studios should not fret too much, however, as Black Widow has still made an impressive sum from both theaters and streaming, despite aggressive piracy. It recently passed $100 million at the U.S. box office (by far the fastest film to do so since the pandemic), and is doing very well oversees. Additionally, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has said that Black Widow will likely be the only MCU film to attempt the release strategy. There are still three Marvel Studios films planned for 2021, but all will be released exclusively in theaters. It will be interesting to see how the films do in comparison to Black Widow - specifically the newcomers Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Five Rings and Eternals.
Black Widow is currently playing in theaters (still in IMAX until Thursday night - I highly recommend it) and is also available to purchase on Disney+ for $29.99. It follows Natasha's experiences between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. It is a must-see for any Marvel fan. Just please don't pirate it.