Over the last few months, as theaters have reopened, the box office has been lurching back into gear. Godzilla vs. Kong got the ball rolling, F9 kicked it into second gear, and Black Widow just set a record with a record domestic opening during the pandemic with $80 million, besting F9’s previous record by a solid $10 million. Adding to its total, Black Widow collected $78 million overseas, and Disney is boasting it raked in a further $60 million through Premiere Access on Disney+. That means Black Widow’s total haul for the weekend is over $218 million, which puts it in the middle of Captain Marvel’s high-flying $455 million start, including $153 million domestic, and Ant-Man and the Wasp’s more modest $160 million opening weekend, which included $76 million domestically. This is pretty much where I expected Black Widow to land, even pre-pandemic. This was never a billion-dollar movie, and audiences haven’t exactly been starved for Marvel even without theaters, since three shows debuted on Disney+ before Black Widow hit theaters.
The key number in Black Widow’s opening weekend is that $60 million reported from Disney+. First of all, it’s unusual for a streamer to provide hard data about how films perform on streaming, and while there is still no third-party verification, that Disney is bragging says two things. One, none of their previous Premiere Access titles made this much, and two, they maybe felt they needed to boost Black Widow’s theatrical numbers, since it came in on the low end of expectations. Again, though, Black Widow was never a billion-dollar movie. It’s a one-off title strangely situated in the MCU timeline, coming too late for a character whose popularity arguably peaked in 2015. Pre-pandemic, I thought this was a $600-750 million movie, a sh-t ton of money, to be sure, but one of the softer entries into the MCU, a la Ant-Man. Now, it looks to fall on the lower end of that range, but still in line with my initial expectation.
Disney maybe told us how much Black Widow made on streaming to burnish their weekend report, but I think they also released that figure to show that their day-and-date surcharge release strategy works. You can release an A-list title on streaming, charge extra for it, and still get butts in seats in theaters AND take a significant haul from home viewing. Does that mean everyone else will jump on this train? No. Some distributors will hold out against day-and-date strategies in order to woo talent leery of the streaming revolution, and others simply don’t have the in-house capability to do what Disney does. But Disney will definitely keep doing this Premiere Access thing. And since they’ve done it with Marvel, nothing will be off limits going forward. Stars Wars at home on opening night? Yeah, probably, eventually. Oh, and because Disney owns Disney+, they get to keep all of that Premiere Access money, as opposed to theatrical tickets, which they split with exhibitors. For now. T-minus five and a half months before Disney can buy a theater chain.