‘Black Widow’ Suffers MCU’s Worst Box Office Decline in Second Weekend; Theater Owners Blame Disney+ Release


The first new Marvel movie in nearly two years, Black Widow, opened to pretty spectacular box office when it hit theaters and Disney+ last weekend – but its second weekend is an entirely different story. The MCU standalone fell 67% in its second weekend at the box office pulling in a mere $26.3 million to result in the steepest Weekend 2 decline in Marvel Cinematic Universe history. And while Disney touted $60 million in revenue from its first weekend in Disney+ Premier Access release alone – for which Disney+ subscribers paid a one-time $29.99 fee to “unlock” the movie early on the streaming service – the Mouse House was silent on how much the film made from Disney+ in its second weekend.

That decline is understandably cause for concern for theater owners who were hoping for long legs to help jump-start their businesses, and in a press release that went out Sunday, the National Association of Theater Owners blasted Disney’s decision to simultaneously release Black Widow in theaters and on Disney+, noting that an exclusive theatrical release is still the most beneficial to all parties involved:

“Despite assertions that this pandemic-era improvised release strategy was a success for Disney and the simultaneous release model, it demonstrates that an exclusive theatrical release means more revenue for all stakeholders in every cycle of the movie’s life.”


Image via Marvel Studios

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The statement noted Disney’s decision not to share how much Black Widow made on Disney+ in its second weekend, suggesting they didn’t share that information because the numbers were low on Disney+ as well:

“The many questions raised by Disney’s limited release of streaming data opening weekend are being rapidly answered by Black Widow’s disappointing and anomalous performance. The most important answer is that simultaneous release is a pandemic-era artifact that should be left to history with the pandemic itself.”

Indeed, the decision to put Black Widow in theaters and on Disney+ at the same time – even with a premium price uptick – caused a huge problem in the form of piracy. With an exclusive theatrical release, pirated versions of movies aren’t going to be great quality. But when someone can rip the 4K version of Black Widow from Disney+ the day it hits theaters, a pristine version of the film starts circulating on piracy websites.

This is a problem that NATO flagged in their statement as well:

“Piracy no doubt further affected Black Widow’s performance, and will affect its future performance in international markets where it has yet to open.”


Image via Marvel Studios

So what’s the big takeaway here? Did the Disney+ release hurt Black Widow’s box office? We know a couple of things for sure. 1. MCU movies are the most consistently successful films going right now, with each grossing at least $500 million worldwide at the box office and many getting closer to $1 billion. And 2. The pandemic irrevocably changed the movie industry forever. Warner Bros. blew the theatrical window wide open with their HBO Max strategy, and other studios are following suit. And now with Black Widow, we’re seeing how that can impact a film’s box office legs. Remember when Avengers: Endgame was the #1 movie at the box office for months and months on end? That may be an increasingly rare phenomenon when more and more people are just going to wait a month (or no time at all) for the streaming release.

But another factor here could be that the first MCU movie after a long break feels like a step backwards. Black Widow is a good movie, but it’s also a prequel. It moves the MCU forward in small ways like introducing Florence Pugh’s Yelena Bolova, but it doesn’t feel like a “must-see” – especially ASAP – the same way other Marvel movies did. There was a “see it before you get spoiled on the twist” quality to films like Avengers: Endgame or even Captain Marvel, but it’s possible that everyone who wanted to see Black Widow in theaters did so during that first weekend.

The other factor is that the pandemic is not yet over. Vaccination rates are on the rise, but so are COVID-19 cases as the Delta Variant ravages the unvaccinated. People may be more hesitant to leave their houses now than they were a week ago, and thus more likely to either wait until Black Widow is fully streaming on Disney+ in a few months or pay the upcharge now to see it in their homes.

Whatever the case, it’s impossible to have hard and firm takeaways from the box office right now. The movie industry remains volatile, and while we’re on the road towards things getting back to a “new normal,” it feels increasingly likely we’ll never get back to the “normal” we knew before. Everything changed in 2020, and we’re all in a period of adjustment. The chips haven’t quite fallen into place just yet, but they’re certainly coming down in different ways.

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