Black Widow‘s simultaneous theatrical and Disney Plus release has left the studio in hot water. Soon after it became apparent that it’d disappoint at the box office, Johansson sued Disney for breach of contract, arguing that VOD cut the legs out from under the film’s box office haul.
This release strategy stung because her back-end deal was based on theatrical performance, and now GiantFreakinRobot is reporting that their sources are saying she could have missed out on as much as $70 million dollars as a result
That payday would have meant Black Widow would have had to have cracked a billion dollars in theaters. But could that really have been possible? It’s true that since 2018 the MCU has been on a mind-blowingly successful run of hits, with Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home all comfortably passing the billion-dollar mark.
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But the elephant in the room is COVID-19. Though Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings doing well indicates that theaters are recovering, the global box office is still way down due to skittish audiences wanting to avoid crowded public places (and that’s in regions that aren’t still in some form of lockdown).
So yes, Black Widow likely stood a decent chance of joining the billion-dollar club in normal times, but we don’t live in normal times. The movie had already been delayed for a year and it’s likely Disney simply wanted to get it released so they can move on with their Phase 4 plans.
I suspect we’ll never know the full outcome of the Black Widow dispute. My bet is that Disney and Johansson will hash out a settlement behind closed doors, as going to court would expose information about Disney Plus VOD financials that the studio would prefer to keep away from their streaming competitors.