By: Olivia Ong
The film industry proves that it still has no shortage of blockbusters, with Disney and Marvel’s Black Widow becoming a beacon of hope as the highest grossing debut since the pandemic, beating out the previous record set by F9: The Fast Saga. The superhero prequel easily made $80 million in its first weekend at the domestic box office as 81% of all theaters were allowed to open. However, the film’s success doesn’t stop there as it earned an additional $78 million from 46 international territories—including Russia, Australia, Germany, Japan, Korea, Brazil and Mexico—and $60 million from Disney’s Disney Plus Premier Access globally, bringing up the box office total to a massive $215 million.
Black Widow was set in between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, finally delving deeper into Natasha Romanoff’s mysterious past. Scarlett Johansson rejoins the MCU as Black Widow, joined by other prominent actors such as Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, and David Harbour under the direction of Cate Shortland.
The raging success of the newest Marvel film comes as no surprise, especially with Disney’s newest flexibility in distribution as a way to work around the limitations of the pandemic. Not only was Black Widow released to premiere in cinemas across the United States, but Disney also gave it a global platform through their streaming service Disney+. With an additional $30, subscribers around the world could rent the movie through the Disney Plus Premier Access. The film debuted on the streaming platform on the same day and reported a staggering $60 million from the streaming alone.
“‘Black Widow’s’ strong performance…affirms our flexible distribution strategy of making franchise films available in theaters for a true cinematic experience and, as COVID concerns continue globally, providing choice to consumers who prefer to watch at home on Disney Plus.” said Disney’s media and entertainment distribution chairman Kareem Daniel.
This is the first time that Disney has released a film both in cinemas and on their streaming service simultaneously, as well as reporting a film’s performance on the app. It is unclear whether the company will choose to continue to report this kind of data for its upcoming films, or if the information will only be provided for selected releases.
“This is an unprecedented way of reporting opening weekend business for a film, but Disney deserves some credit for detailing what was generated by the actual box office and what was earned from streaming,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com. “Hopefully this sets a standard for even more transparency across the industry, but it’s crucial to keep perspective on the unique circumstances and times we’re living in.”
Some of the premiere’s success may also be attributed to the loyal fanbase that Marvel has garnered through the years.
“The brand equity that Marvel brings to the table is almost unrivaled and is reflected in the historic box office that the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have generated,” said Paul Dergarabedian, Comscore’s senior media analyst. “Therefore, It should come as no surprise that ‘Black Widow’ snagged the biggest debut and powered the biggest overall weekend of the pandemic.”
However, David Gross from Franchise Entertainment Research cautions other film releases to not expect the same kind of success, since Marvel movies come with an unrivaled fanbase that easily reflects in the box office.
Regardless of this, Black Widow can still be seen as a source of optimism for movie theaters and the industry, both of which have been struggling to remain open through the lockdown restrictions in countries globally. The film was supposed to premiere last 2020, but the release was delayed multiple times due to the pandemic.
“There’s no question it’s been worth the wait,” Disney Studios’ content chairman Alan Bergman said. “Cate Shortland, Scarlett Johansson, and the Marvel Studios team have delivered an exceptional film that continues a legacy of creative excellence as the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands and enters a new era.”