Black Widow’s $60 million success signals a long, new future of streaming movies

Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) as Black Widow in Marvel Studios' BLACK WIDOW. Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2020.
Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) as Black Widow in Marvel Studios' BLACK WIDOW. Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2020. /

Disney has made new strides at the box office this weekend that could point to the current model of movie releases being sustained long after the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Sunday morning, Disney released its weekend earnings for Black Widow, which debuted on July 9. And the company saw a huge win for the movie industry as a whole following the start of the pandemic.

According to Disney, “Black Widow is the largest domestic box office opening since the COVID-19 pandemic began and the largest domestic opening weekend since Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker in December 2019.”

Black Widow box office

In total, the film took home $215 million — this is combined with box office earnings as well as earnings from Premier Access subscribers. And Disney’s Premier Access is something to watch.

On top of the price for a regular Disney+ subscription, Disney has implemented a pay-to-watch feature for some of its larger releases for roughly $30. Past releases have included Mulan and Raya and the Last Dragon, and Black Widow is just the latest to be released on this model.

Of the $215 million made over the weekend, Disney+ reports that $60 million came from Premier Access alone. That accounts for nearly 28 percent of Black Widow’s overall haul. But as Variety reports, the winnings are so much sweeter when it comes to Premier Access. Why? Because Disney doesn’t have to split those earnings with movie theaters. They get to rake it all in for themselves.

More Premier Access movies in the future?

What was a great temporary solution to a worldwide problem now seems like a more permanent fixture that could be here to stay.

While many would hate to see the movie theater industry on the downturn, it’s possible that the hybrid theatrical/home-release models could be here to stay. While that 28 percent may be small in comparison to the box-office haul, Variety says that film earnings are split roughly 50-50 between the studio and the movie theaters.

With Disney reporting that $80 million came from the domestic box office, and $78 million international, that averages out to about $79 million they would get to keep for themselves. Now, the $60 million in streaming numbers doesn’t seem so small anymore.

What this has proved, overall, is that if the option is available, a sizeable amount of people will choose to stream the movie at home — even if it comes with a tacked-on price. Warner Bros. has followed a similar release model for 2021 only (so far), where movies are released in theaters and on HBO Max (free to subscribers for just one month). But it’s possible Warner Bros. and even other studios like Universal or Sony may try to follow Disney’s lead.

Of course, many people will tell you that nothing beats going to a theater. And many people celebrated seeing Black Widow as their return to movie theaters since the pandemic. But when it comes to the future, we could still see movies from franchises like Marvel, Star Wars and others continue with this even after 2021. And we’ll just have to look to the end of this year and 2022 to see what trajectory the movie industry takes.

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