While seven of the eleven Warner Bros. movies to have released simultaneously in theaters and HBO Max have managed to open at the top of the domestic box office to assuage some doubts that the decision would mark the beginning of the end for the theatrical industry, Disney haven’t been quite so fortunate when it comes to the commercial results.
Mulan‘s chances of success were torpedoed after the controversial live-action remake bombed in China, while Raya and the Last Dragon labored to a middling haul of $121 million globally. Pixar’s Soul failed to even recoup the $150 million budget through an international big screen rollout, and Cruella is sitting on a solid if unspectacular tally of $224 million. It looked like things were set to change when the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Widow smashed records last weekend, but it’s taken a serious hit across its second frame.
The prequel took second place in the domestic charts behind Space Jam: A New Legacy, but a drop of over 67% marks the steepest second weekend decline in MCU history. Now, in an unprecedented move, the National Association of Theater Owners has released a public statement laying the blame squarely at Disney’s feet for choosing to send the comic book blockbuster to Premier Access, which you can read below.
“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. 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.
One can assume the family-oriented Disney+ household is larger. How much? How much password sharing is there among Disney+ subscribers? 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. Piracy no doubt further affected Black Widow’s performance, and will affect its future performance in international markets where it has yet to open. Pristine digital copies became available within minutes of release on Disney+. Black Widow was the most torrented movie for the week ending July 12.”
If any movies stood to resuscitate a stagnant industry, it was going to be Fast & Furious 9 and Black Widow, but they look to be enjoying very different fortunes. While the former is closing in on a worldwide haul of $600 million, the latter is beginning to taper off significantly already, which is definitely down to a combination of Premier Access and the inevitable piracy that comes with any hybrid release.