Black Widow

Source: Disney / Marvel Studios

Black Widow

Driven by cautious optimism over the return of cinema-going and a bullish stance on streaming, Disney executives have, as expected, pushed back a number of tentpoles on their 2021 slate including Black Widow, which moves to a July 9 theatrical-Disney+ Premier Access day-and-date release.

The Scarlett Johansson Marvel Studios spin-off will also open in most international markets where Disney+ operates on the same date. This will include the UK and Ireland. 

Black Widow was most recently set to open on May 7 after several delays due to the pandemic.

Similarly Cruella starring Emma Stone will open simultaneously in cinemas and Disney+ Premier Access in most Disney+ international markets on May 28 – Memorial Day holiday weekend in the US.

Premier Access is the $29.99 Disney+ subscriber surcharge that kicks in several months before members can watch for no extra charge. The day-and-date strategy applied to recent release Raya And The Last Dragon, which Disney claimed to be ”successful” on Tuesday (March 23) without providing data.

Cinemark refused to carry Raya And The Last Dragon after it requested more favourable terms, and it is not known what stance it will take on Cruella and Black Widow.

In other schedule changes, upcoming Pixar release Luca will debut exclusively on Disney+ on June 18, echoing the 2020 December launch of Soul in the US. In international markets where Disney+ is not yet available, the film will be released theatrically, with premiere dates to be announced.

The following theatrical release dates have changed: Free Guy moves from May 21 to August 13; Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings moves from July 9 to September 3; and The King’s Man moves from August 20 to December 22.

Two films have been pushed into 2022: Deep Water, previously set for August 13, will open on January 14, 2022, while Death On The Nile moves from September 17 to February 11, 2022.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek has outlined before a distribution strategy whereby a film either gets a theatrical-first release, opens simultaneously in cinemas and on Disney+ Premier Access, or debuts directly on Disney+.

However Tuesday’s announcement will come as something of a blow to exhibitors who were brought to their knees during the pandemic and will be relying on theatrical-only studio releases to boost their proposition to returning cinema-goers.

Disney’s calendar shuffle comes on a significant day for exhibition. Earlier on Tuesday Cineworld said it would be reopening its Regal cinemas in the US in April after six months of closure. The chain has struck a multi-year deal with Warner Bros that starting in 2022 will bring in a 45-day exclusive theatrical window – bypassing the day-and-date theatrical-HBO Max strategy for all Warner Bros releases in 2021.