Los Angeles, July 19, 2021: The US cinema association, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), has slammed Walt Disney Co. for simultaneous Disney+ and theatrical release of Marvel Studios' Black Widow, saying the decision has undercut the tentpole's box office potential and promoted piracy.
After taking a record pandemic era opening
, the Scarlett Johansson led superhero movie falls flat in the second weekend and recorded the decline of 67 percent, one of the biggest drops ever for a Marvel title, and the worst among the Marvel films released by Disney. The record decline didn't go well with theaters owners who come out hard on Disney for their two-way release decision.
"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 in a statement (via THR
In the second weekend (16-18 July), Black Widow recorded $26.3 million domestic gross and fell to no. 2, behind Warner Bros.' Space Jam: A New Legacy, which topped the chart with a better-than-expected domestic debut of $31.7. Space Jam, however, is also the simultaneous theaters and HBO Max release, coming in Warner Bros.' release plan of its 2021 movies.
NATO thinks the standalone superhero offering from Marvel should have debuted in the $92 million to $100 million range domestically. The trade organization points to cannibalization from Disney+ and piracy as the prime culprits for Black Widow's performance.
"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 says.
"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. "Pristine digital copies became available within minutes of release on Disney+. 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".
Meanwhile, Disney is all set to bring Black Widow directly on its streaming platform in India, skipping theatrical debut. However, Both Disney and WarnerMedia have indicated they will return to a traditional theatrical release when the pandemic subsidies, both in the U.S. and overseas.