‘Black Widow’: Theatre Owners Blast Disney’s Day & Date Strategy For Undermining Marvel Pic’s Box Office & Future Revenues


The National Association of Theatre Owners have finally spoken out about the financial peril involved in Disney’s ambitious day-and-date theatrical Disney+ release of Black Widow

In a press release dropped this afternoon following our analysis of what went sideways with the Marvel Cinematic Universe title, NATO asks how can a well-reviewed, well-received, highly anticipated Marvel title underperform leading to a first weekend Friday-to-Saturday collapse of -41%, and a -67% drop in weekend 2? NATO comes to the same conclusions as we did in regards to Black Widow getting her legs picked off: Piracy, and Disney+ at-home cannibalization which impacts not just the box office, but the pic’s subsequent home window as well.

The Disney theatrical day-and-date Disney+ model “ignores that Premiere Access revenue is not new-found money, but was pulled forward from a more traditional PVOD window, which is no longer an option” reports NATO.

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“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,” emphasizes the NATO news drop.

Given the opening day to weekend ratios of other comparable Marvel movies, and other successful pandemic-era titles like F9 and A Quiet Place Part II, NATO says that Black Widow should have opened to between $92M-$100M. “Based on preview revenue, compared to the same titles, Black Widow could have opened to anywhere from $97M to $130M,” adds the release.

NATO goes further in specifying the lost amount of dollars for both Black Widow and exhibition: “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 also pointed to the Torrent Freak report that we cited how for the week ending July 12, Black Widow was the most pirated movie. We’ve heard from industry sources that Black Widow was pirated even more than Wonder Woman 1984.

“Piracy no doubt further affected Black Widow’s performance, and will affect its future performance in international markets where it has yet to open,” says the NATO release, with pristine copies “also available on myriad illegal streaming sites all over the internet.”

Concludes NATO: “This was also the case for all simultaneous releases (Wonder Woman 1984, Godzilla vs Kong, Cruella, Mortal Kombat). This did not happen for F9 or A Quiet Place Part II. How much money did everyone lose to simultaneous release piracy? 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.”

NATO also specified like we did that Disney+ doesn’t keep 100% of their Premier revenue, but 15% of it goes to the platform providers.

At the onset of the pandemic last March before all movie theaters closed down, NATO spoke out against Universal’s then theatrical-PVOD day-and-date release for Trolls World Tour. Very quickly, due to COVID, this wound up being largely a PVOD release with only drive-ins in operation at that point in time booking the Dreamworks Animation sequel. A few months later AMC publicly dinged Universal over their attempted crunching of windows, which resulted in a peaceful settlement between the studio and No. 1 exhibitor whereby the theatrical window was crunched on most titles for 17 days, followed by a simultaneous PVOD release, of which AMC would be able to share in. On those titles opening to north of $50M, Uni’s theatrical window lasts longer at 30 days before hitting PVOD.

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