Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh play as Natasha and Yelena in Marvel’s “Black Widow”.
After the second week of “Black Widow” cinema, the temperatures in the entertainment industry are getting hot.
The Marvel movie that grossed $ 80 million domestically on its debut weekend – the highest box office opening in the pandemic – saw a significant drop in ticket sales last weekend.
“Black Widow” had the worst second-weekend performance of any Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, down 67%, just behind “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which dropped 62% from its $ 117 million debut, and ” Ant-Man and the Wasp “. which fell 62% from $ 76 million.
The slip up caused the National Association of Theater Owners to explode Disney’s Decision to make the film available in theaters and via Disney Premier Access (at a price of US $ 30) that same day. The studio reported last weekend that it raised $ 60 million from Disney + sales.
“Why did such a well-made, well-received, and highly anticipated film underperform?” The organization wrote this on Sunday in a detailed press release. “Despite claims that this pandemic-era impromptu release strategy was a success for Disney and the simultaneous release model, it shows that an exclusive theatrical release means more revenue for everyone involved in each cycle of the film’s life.”
The group, which represents more than 30,000 screens in 50 states, described the decline in Black Widow ticket sales as an “impressive drop in second-weekend cinema revenues.”
NATO’s concerns are not new, but they come at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is flaring up again, even in heavily vaccinated areas. Some local governments have started restoring social distancing and masked security measures.
The entertainment industry is in a precarious position as studios and cinema operators disagree over how and when films should be released in theaters and via streaming services. Many studios have already said that these hybrid release models are only temporary precautionary measures against a pandemic and plan to release films exclusively in theaters in late summer and early fall.
The pandemic has turned the cinema industry on its head as chains large and small have been forced to close locations due to nationwide security measures. While studios were able to move much of the content earmarked for cinemas, the prolonged closings and the surge in coronavirus cases resulted in some movies being released on streaming platforms or developing a hybrid model.
Disney has postponed Black Widow for more than a year to make sure it hits theaters. However, with a huge selection of other MCU films waiting in the wings, the studio was forced to make a decision on how to get the film out.
Disney eventually decided to bring the film to theaters and on Disney + for a fee so fans could watch Black Widow on the big screen or, if more comfortable, from their couches. The decision was made long before the vaccination rates went up and before the Delta variant was rampant in the US
“Right now there are two camps – those who feel comfortable going back to the movies and those who don’t,” said Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst, Exhibitor Relations. “NATO’s accusing streaming is a knee-jerk reaction that is completely selfish. It’s almost like they don’t understand the current market.”
“Also, because of its place in the MCU timeline, Black Widow would never be the strongest Marvel movie,” said Bock. “The statement published by NATO is not going to age well. In fact, the minute it was published, it seemed out of date.”
Disney is no stranger to box office success, in 2019 there were seven films that were over $ 1 billion worldwide. Company executives have announced their intention to continue releasing films in theaters, particularly large budget films tied to large franchises.
While box office receipts have been on the rise in recent months, the pandemic is not over yet. Outside the US, vaccination rates have lagged, leading to delays in releases in other countries and fewer returns to open regions.
Not to mention a significant proportion of Americans are not vaccinated, including children.
“It is probably fair to write off ‘Black Widow’ as an experiment at a time of great uncertainty, where no one has the perfect answer to how to strategically plan a global property in the late stages of a pandemic,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com said.
There’s no denying that Disney left money on the table because of this release model. The $ 60 million in Disney + sales aren’t box office revenue. It’s home video sales. That money would traditionally have been made after “Black Widow” ended its time in theaters.
“I don’t think it’s a big surprise that the box office dropped significantly in week two as there was always the opportunity for first-time viewers to come to the theater and repeat shows on Disney +,” said Alicia Reese, senior associate of Wedbush on the equity research division said.
Reese noted that Disney didn’t share Disney + sales data for the second weekend, so it’s unclear what type of drop streaming was seen versus theater.
“The point NATO is making is a good one; it’s not just about lost cinema revenue with this day-and-date model, but cannibalized second-window revenue (regular PVOD) that will hurt Disney in the long run.” said. “Because Disney + subscribers who pay for premium access to ‘Black Widow’ can watch the movie as many times as they want and as long as they have their Disney + subscription, they have no incentive to buy the movie or buy it in the following borrow window. “
The two top-selling films of the year domestically are currently “A Quiet Place Part II” and “F9”, both of which had an exclusive cinema window. It should be noted that, according to Comscore data, “F9” also saw a 67% drop in box office receipts between its debut weekend and its second weekend.
“The entire industry is still trying to carefully manage this staggered global recovery,” said Robbins of Boxoffice.com. “Disney took a remarkable step by reporting streaming numbers on the opening weekend, but they have so far negated that perceived transparency by keeping silent about key access numbers since the week.”
“We know how much the box office fell on the second weekend, so why don’t we know how much Disney + profits went down?” he said. “The answer seems almost obvious, but we shouldn’t have to read between the lines. Whether it’s temporarily shielded or never revealed at all, the optics of withholding that information is just not good.”
Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh play as Natasha and Yelena in Marvel’s “Black Widow”.
Prior to the release of Black Widow, Disney had already stated that Free Guy, Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings and the rest of its 2021 slate, including Encanto, Eternals and West Side Story, would all will be shown exclusively in cinemas for at least 45 days.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek reiterated the company’s commitment to cinema during his conference call in May, but acknowledged the “fluid nature” of exhibition recovery and the possibility of another major outbreak.
The company is very aware of how powerful the box office can be and how devastating piracy can be to potential revenue. After all, Disney planned to release Avengers: Endgame in China and North America on the same day in 2019 to ensure the majority of potential audiences could see the movie in theaters before it was pirated online.
This strategy also led to the “Endgame” one a record $ 1.2 billion worldwide on the opening weekend, including more than $ 350 million in the US and Canada.
“The ability of a high-quality pirated film to get around the world in the blink of an eye in this digital age is clearly a risk that every studio must consider when releasing a film before or at the same time as streaming platforms release it,” said Eric Wold , Senior Analyst at B. Riley Securities.
“I believe we saw the impact on the domestic box office results of ‘Black Widow’ on the opening weekend and the following weekend, as well as the fact that Disney has not yet announced a theatrical release date in China, despite the fact that the film was shot some time ago “, he said.
National and international box offices have made great strides in recent months and ticket sales have surpassed 2020 levels. However, a return to normal is not expected until mid-2022 at the earliest, with some analysts predicting 2023 as the deadline for the recovery.
“I believe the industry has broken new ground as content creators are trying to figure out the most profitable ways to monetize their product,” said Doug Stone, a box office advisor and former theater operator. “We’re not there yet, and even if all the cinemas were at full capacity, I don’t think the puzzle will be solved.”
According to Comscore, around 82% of the cinemas were open last weekend.
And the threat of Covid to the industry is not over yet.
“The country has made great strides in this area, but there is still a hill to climb,” said Stone. “When that happens will certainly depend on vaccination rates and the transition to herd immunity. … Given all of that, I wouldn’t expect us to get to what the new normal is until at least mid-2022 and possibly later, depending on what the new normal is . “
Over the weekend, Los Angeles, the largest movie theater market, reintroduced its mask requirement due to a surge in Covid cases in the county.
The studios have not withdrawn film releases due to this recent surge in the number of cases, but audiences may be less comfortable if these outbursts continue.
“Without a doubt, this remains a very unusual theater marketplace as the effects of the pandemic continue to affect the number of cinemas open, consumer behavior and, of course, box office results,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
“While it is understandable that some studios are opting for a hybrid release strategy to deal with this challenging environment, the data clearly shows that long-term playability and ultimate gross sales will improve for films that have a ‘Theater First’ – Use the model, “he said hey. “But of course there are so many variables involved that it may be wise to let the dust freeze before we can properly assess which of these release models (or a combination of them) will be most beneficial in the long run.”