The film, which stars Scarlett Johansson as the avenging super-spy, is projected to bring in around $80 million domestically this weekend. It could make more since it’s Marvel — the biggest blockbuster brand in all of Hollywood — but it’s hard to forecast because theaters are hardly back at full strength. Disney is putting its North American projections at around $70 million or more.
So far, the film, which opens in more than 4,000 theaters after being delayed three times, is off to a good start. It opened to $13.2 million Thursday night.
“The return of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to cinemas has long been one of the keystone dates circled on the calendar,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, told Asia Despatch Business. “The immense level of goodwill from fans and casual viewers alike, especially after a trio of hit series released on Disney+, only amplifies the excitement of going back to a theater and sharing that Marvel experience again.”
The release strategy “doesn’t look like what we’re used to” Robbins added, and there are giant asterisks on this weekend’s opening, but “it’s a big step forward from where we were a year ago, or even six months ago.”
‘Black Widow’ at home or in theaters
Making “Black Widow” available in homes is also an excellent way to lure potential subscribers to the service. And its streaming release is a clear example of how much things have changed in Hollywood lately. Just two years ago, it would have been unheard of for a Marvel movie to be released in homes and at cineplexes simultaneously.
“All anyone can do is speculate and trade conjecture about the impact of streaming blockbusters on opening weekend since studios have failed to be transparent with any meaningful streaming data,” Robbins said. “Either way, there are significant concerns about the entire ecosystem of production and content if this release strategy becomes the way forward.”
Financially, “it could cut into ancillary revenue, which may devalue many of Hollywood’s most important assets and brands,” he added.
And the impact might go beyond money.
“I think this impacts the culture of re-watching movies”
If offering blockbusters on streaming right away becomes a new standard, it might change how we watch these films, according to Suzanne Scott, an associate professor at the University of Texas’ Moody College of Communication.
“For many, seeing these sorts of films in a theater is a sacred experience that I don’t think they will give up simply because a film is also streaming,” Scott told Asia Despatch Business. “If anything, I think this impacts the culture of re-watching movies.”
A simultaneous release model “allows for new ways of engaging the film in a way a theatrical only release cannot,” she added.
“I can envision many fans going to see ‘Black Widow’ in a theater and then immediately coming home to watch scenes over again, pausing to examine Easter eggs,” she said. “Because so much of the MCU culture involves that sort of close analysis, streaming is in some ways a better fit.”
However, she doubts that streaming “will become the preferred mode for a first viewing for those audience members who treat these films as events.”
In the end, the strategies of how to release movies are changing by the day, and studios are still trying to figure it all out. The best course of action may be a hybrid model that includes a theatrical release with a streaming debut a few weeks later.
Despite the film’s importance to the ever-growing world of streaming, “Black Window” is ultimately still more important to theaters, Matthew Ball, a former Amazon Studios executive, told Asia Despatch Business.
“They need an unquestionable win,” Ball said. “And Marvel looks ready to avenge their 2020.”