Black Widow

Source: Disney / Marvel Studios

‘Black Widow’

National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has taken Disney to task for the day-and-date launch of Black Widow and claimed the release model curtailed the film’s theatrical revenue potential.

The Scarlett Johansson spin-off grossed $26.3m in its second session following a 67% drop – an unprecedented declined for a Marvel Studios film released by Disney. NATO described the July 16-18 session as a “stunning second weekend collapse in theatrical revenues”, and noted a precipitous 41% Friday-Saturday drop in the first weekend.

Black Widow stands at $264m worldwide with a roughly even North America-international split.

“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 organisation said in a press release issued on Sunday (July 18).

NATO said that based on comparable Marvel titles and pandemic-era titles like F9 and A Quiet Place 2 opening day to weekend ratios, Black Widow should have opened anywhere from $92m-$100m. Based on preview revenue compared to the same titles, the group added, Black Widow could have opened anywhere from $97m-$130m. The film opened last week on $80m in North American cinemas.

This past weekend Disney did not disclose Black Widow’s revenues from Disney+ Premier Access after it disclosed that the premium subscription plan generated $60m over the July 9-11 opening weekend. Premier Access costs consumers $30 and NATO said roughly 15% of revenues go to the platforms through which consumers access Disney+.

NATO also said the $60m Premier Access figure is more of a global number, as the Disney+ platform is available in select territories outside the US.

It continued, “The average number of people per household in the U.S. is 2.37. 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 asserted that Premiere Access revenue is not new-found money but a revenue stream pulled forward from the more traditional PVOD window, which it argued was no longer a revenue option in cases where films open simultaneously in cinemas and on Premier Access.

The group added that piracy would have affected Black Widow’s theatrical performance and will affect its future performance in international markets where the film has yet to open. “Pristine digital copies became available within minutes of release on Disney+,” it said, “Black Widow was the most torrented movie for the week ending July 12. It is also available on myriad illegal streaming sites all over the internet.”

NATO said piracy impacted the theatrical box office of Wonder Woman 1984, Godzilla vs Kong, Cruella, Mortal Kombat – all of which got simultaneous theatrical and digital releases – while it did not affect the exclusive theatrical releases of F9 and A Quiet Place 2.

The organisation concluded, “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.”

Disney did not respond to requests for comment.