Black Widow’s box office draws battle lines between theaters and Disney
The Future. After Marvel’s Black Widow suffered a huge drop-off in box office revenue, theater owners and industry analysts lay the blame on the movie’s simultaneous release on Disney+ with Premier Access. Are simultaneous theatrical and digital releases a “pandemic-era artifact that should be left to history with the pandemic itself,” as NATO says, or a financial win-win for studios battling it out in the streaming wars? Only time will tell.
Off at the knees
Black Widow seems to have fallen from box office glory… and theaters are furious.
- Refresher: Black Widow opened on July 9 to $218.8 million globally in its opening weekend — $158.8 million in theaters ($80 domestic, $78.8 internationally) and $60 million through Premier Access (an extra $30 charge on top of the subscription price).
- But in its second weekend, the $200 million movie had a “stunning second weekend collapse in theatrical revenues,” according to the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), making only an additional $29.9 million (a 55% drop).
- That’s the second biggest dropoff in Marvel history after Ant Man & The Wasp (a 62% drop).
Disney also didn’t update how much the movie made on Premier Access during its second weekend, but Samba TV reports that around 900K additional households purchased a Premier Access ticket after the opening weekend. How many of those factor into Disney’s original $60 million takeaway is fuzzy.
Why is the money always gone?
NATO claims that, if it was released only in theaters opening weekend, Black Widow would’ve made close to $100 million domestically. But that doesn’t make sense at first glance — didn’t the movie make more than with inclusion of Premier Access?
- Contrary to initial belief, Disney doesn’t keep all the revenue from Premier Access. 15% goes to platforms like AppleTV and Roku, which audiences use to access Disney+.
- Studios typically split theatrical revenue 50-50.
- NATO says that Premier Access also cuts into “downstream revenue,” like first-pay windows on TV, digital rentals after theatrical distribution, etc.
- Piracy was also an issue. Black Widow was the most torrented movie last week.
Getting int the nitty gritty, NATO explains that “the average number of people per household in the U.S. is 2.37. One can assume the family-oriented Disney+ household is larger. Combined with the lost theatrical revenue and forgone traditional PVOD revenue, the answer to these questions will show that simultaneous release costs Disney money in revenue per viewer over the life of the film.”
To be fair, F9, another anticipated summer blockbuster, dropped 67% in its second weekend, so maybe people aren’t just quite ready to show up to a theater in droves yet.