Theater Owners Rip Disney Over 'Black Widow' Release Strategy

The National Association of Theater Owners took Disney to task over its day-and-date theatrical release of 'Black Widow' following its box office collapse.

Florence Pugh, O. T. Fagbenle, Rachel Weisz and Scarlett Johanssonn speak at the Marvel Studios Panel.

Image via Getty/Kevin Winter

Florence Pugh, O. T. Fagbenle, Rachel Weisz and Scarlett Johanssonn speak at the Marvel Studios Panel.

The National Association of Theatre Owners reprimanded Disney in a press release Sunday over the decision to simultaneously release its latest Marvel Studios offering, Black Widow, on Disney+ and in theaters, perThe Hollywood Reporter

“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,” NATO said. 

Black Widowearned $158 million worldwide in its opening weekend, with an additional $60 million coming from its Disney+ Premier Access option. The following weekend, Space Jam: A New Legacy claimed the top spot in its debut week, thanks to a haul of $31.7 million domestically. Black Widow’s box office total fell by 67 percent in its second week, a record drop for a Marvel title. 

“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,” NATO said. “The most important answer is that simultaneous release is a pandemic-era artifact that should be left to history with the pandemic itself.”

While NATO’s sharply worded critique of the day-and-date release model comes after Disney chose to use their remaining 2021 titles to figure out their best approach going forward. In addition to the Ryan Reynolds-led Free Guy, Disney’s next Marvel film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, will be given a 45-day theatrical window before its made available for PVOD, which was pulled from ParamountBlack Widow, along with Cruella and Jungle Cruise, will be released simultaneously in theaters and on its streaming service, borrowing the concept made popular by Warner Bros. and HBO Max.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, theater owners were incensed at Disney for touting the $60 million earned from subscribers. That considerably large figure added to the frustration among cinema owners who were expecting the standalone Marvel movie to net between $92 million to $100 million domestically, not $80 million

“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,” NATO said. 

“Piracy no doubt further affected Black Widow’s performance, and will affect its future performance in international markets where it has yet to open,” the release continued, adding that “myriad illegal streaming sites all over the Internet” had the film available for viewing, thanks to the “pristine digital copies” being released on Disney+. 

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