Black Widow is a smash hit on Disney Plus – is it bad news for theaters?

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Black Widow wasn’t just a milestone as Disney’s first big theatrical release since the pandemic began. It was also an important moment for Disney’s direct-to-consumer film release strategy: selling copies for $ 30 on Disney Plus Premier Access. For a while, Disney and other streaming companies didn’t really feel the need to share their ticket numbers online.

This arguably followed Netflix, which only publishes opaque data, counting all those who “chose to watch” a show or movie “and watched it for at least 2 minutes.” And then Disney decided that Black Widow was selling well enough on Disney Plus Premier Access to break that rule.

On the Monday following opening weekend, Disney announced that Black Widow had made $ 60 million through Disney Plus, in addition to the $ 80 million in theaters. And it’s the kind of moment that makes you wonder where the movie industry is going.

Day 1 streaming will end soon, for some

No one expected to see [Black Widow] Streaming numbers included with box office numbers. It was like a unicorn. “

Paul Dergarabedian, Comscore

In the first year of the pandemic, Disney went its own way, selling Mulan, Raya and The Last Dragon and Cruella for $ 30 to those with Disney Plus memberships.

Warner Bros. Pictures, notoriously, has annoyed both filmmakers and movie chains with its decision to release major movies direct to HBO Max in 2021. But if the rise of the Covid-19 Delta variant, or any other variant, does not lead to cinemas closing again (which could very well happen), it looks like cinemas are back.

This pattern continued with the films released on the streaming service the same day they hit theaters, with Black Widow and Space Jam: A New Legacy. This will likely continue as Warner’s 2021 roster continues to roll out, although there have been reports that Dune is only going to theaters.

A Quiet Place 2 was the best in the cinema

(Image credit: Paramount)

A lot of people would like this to continue, but Warner has already struck a new deal with Cineworld, the owners of Regal Cinemas, to have theaters have films first in 2022, with a 45-day exclusivity window. Such windowed exclusivity is already happening with Paramount movies, as A Quiet Place Part 2 just reached Paramount Plus after its first (shortened) theatrical window. (I would say that while home streaming is convenient, A Quiet Place Part 2 loses a lot when you take it out of the theater, because it’s better with a muffled group experience.)

Paramount, like Warner, uses a 45-day theatrical exclusivity window for its biggest movies. Smaller films may arrive after 30 days.

But this agreement is not permanent. So I called Paul Dergarabedian, Senior Media Analyst at Comscore, to get his thoughts on what’s next for how we go (or stay home) to the movies. He agreed that Black Widow was a pivotal moment, noting that “all eyes were on Black Widow this weekend. And everyone I know, no one expected to see streaming numbers included with the numbers. from the box office. It was like a unicorn. “

Why movies will stay in theaters in the future

Going to the movies isn’t just about watching movies, if you ask me. As a rabid fan of the Alamo Drafthouse menu, I was delighted to return to see A Quiet Place Part 2 not only for their strict rules on audience behavior, but also for their excellent queso. Dergarabedian agreed, stating that “the audience that goes to the movies wants the movie experience as much as they want the movie. And so even movies that normally wouldn’t make a big box office like, say, Demon Slayer, or even Godzilla vs. Kong [will outperform.]”

He even argued that theatrical releases help streaming sales, saying that a movie that hits theaters “fuels a level of prestige and interest, all of those good things that we said the theater can do or that a movie theatrical release can do, that’s fine. ”Which is an interesting concept.

F9

(Image credit: Universal)

At the start of the pandemic, studios could have released even more movies online, instead of waiting a year to ditch Black Widow and F9. While waiting for theaters, film studios have made sure that the public considers theatrical releases as a point of quality. We’ve long viewed direct-to-video releases as inferior to their theatrical counterparts, and studios have decided not to fully consider their first chance to break that pattern.

It’s also a little too early to say that things are going one way or another, he notes, “Well, streaming isn’t going to go away. Read too much in any of the numbers at this. stadium, because we’re still figuring it out. It’s still a limited market. “

Disney will write its own rules, but who will follow?

If Disney suddenly thought it would make more money from a strictly box office release, the tide might turn.

The next piece of the Disney theatrical release puzzle is Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Will the next upcoming Marvel movie release Disney Plus Premier Access on September 3, the same day it hits theaters? If I had to bet I would say “yes”, but only because it gives them more ways to make money. If Disney suddenly thought it would make more money from a strictly box office release, the tide might turn.

Black Widow, however, succeeded with an incredibly well-known character on the poster. Shang-Chi doesn’t have that luxury.

Will shang chi and the legend of the ten rings make it to Disney Plus Premier Access?

(Image credit: Marvel)

Dergarabedian is inclined to agree, saying “I think the giant companies that have their own streaming service are really going to look at a hybrid model,” before noting that “Disney of course is so huge and has so many ubiquitous and available and cheap content and massive branding, they can kind of do whatever they want, but they will always include, I believe, cinema. “

A big question about this is how much HBO Max has benefited from Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Wonder Woman 1984, and Godzilla vs Kong. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of data to go on. Warner has only called some films successful, and Nielsen has done his best to estimate the number of views. Neither fits with Disney’s action to offer concrete sales numbers. HBO’s decision to return to theaters for next year is certainly a vote of confidence away from early streaming releases.

So, expect 2022 to be a year when theaters become a requirement again.

Be sure to check out my guides on the best streaming devices for more recommendations. Email me at [email protected] or leave a comment below with anything you’d like to see me cover in the streaming world – I might just respond in a future installment.


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