Black Widow was one of the more highly anticipated films in the MCU. Many fans had wanted a solo adventure for the character from the start. Still, even though the movie was highly anticipated, Disney estimates that between the streaming release and a high level of piracy for the film, they lost over $600 million in profit on Black Widow.
According to a recent report from Deadline investigating the model of streaming and movie same day releasing used by movie studios during the pandemic, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ Premier Access eroded the box office gross, resulting in a 68% second weekend drop. This was the most significant drop for any Disney-released Marvel film to date.
The Deadline report went on to state that adding to the further erosion of box office for any theatrical-day-and-date release on streaming is the fact that these movies are pirated promptly, with clean 4K copies in several languages spread around the world. By the end of August, sources in the know informed us that Black Widow had been pirated more than 20M times. That’s close to a $600M estimated loss on Black Widow in Disney+ PVOD revenue alone.
Even for as large a corporation as Disney, a $600M loss is a tremendous amount of money. That amount sill certainly makes the leadership at Disney question the wisdom of further simultaneous releases, especially with the current success of Spider-Man: No Way Home in the theaters.
It is also important to note that, although Disney charges $29.99 for Premier Access when they simultaneously release films on Disney+ and in theaters, they must give a 15% cut of the Premier Access fees to the hosting platform. So a customer on an Amazon Fire stick that purchased Premier Access for Black Widow, Amazon received 15% of that Premier Access fee.
Black Widow was meant to be a tent pole movie to kick off the MCU’s Phase Four. Even though it was a prequel movie to previous events in the MCU, the fact that the movie was designed to introduce the audience to Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, a character who will be important for the MCU going forward, a lot of importance was placed on the success of Black Widow to start this phase of the franchise.
But the release strategy caused a rift between Disney and the movie’s star, Scarlett Johansson. The actress would famously sue Disney for lost wages due to the simultaneous release on Disney+. The suit was for breach of contract as she claimed that her contract was based on box office return, and with the simultaneous release on Disney+, she would not see any of those profits like she would box office profits. It was a bold move for the actress, considering how much more powerful Disney can be when it comes to the courts.
Fortunately, the two parties were able to come to an agreement, and Johannson is currently working on a secret project for Marvel.
Black Widow is currently streaming for free on Disney+.
Scarlett Johansson and Disney have settled the breach of contract lawsuit invloving Johansson’s Black Widow payday, Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
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