‘Black Widow’ Box Office: Did More People Watch in Theaters or on Disney+?

For the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Black Widow, box office numbers reflected the state of the world in 2021. Its unique release could be indicative of future premieres for Marvel movies. Or it could be an outlier. After all, a breakdown of the numbers shows a fairly even split in how audiences watched the flick in its first weekend.

‘Black Widow’ premiered on Disney+ and in theaters 

The 'Black Widow' poster art, featuring Scarlett Johansson in a black bodysuit, and the supporting cast
The ‘Black Widow’ poster art, featuring Scarlett Johansson in a black bodysuit, and the supporting cast | Marvel Studios

From March 2020 on, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic affected the film industry significantly. Studios delayed most movies set to debut throughout the year while sending others to VOD (video on demand). Among the companies most affected? Disney.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe follows a particular path. Films and Disney+ TV series leading into one another. The media empire delayed Black Widow multiple times, pushing its release back a few months each time. Finally, Disney settled on July 9, 2021, over a year past its originally announced premiere date.

Throughout 2020, Marvel insisted it wouldn’t be releasing Black Widow on Disney+, the streaming service which houses many of its properties. However, follow HBO Max’s success with Wonder Woman 1984 (and, perhaps, high demand from customers), the brand opted for simultaneous release. Disney+ users paid an additional premium access fee for Black Widow the same day.

The ‘Black Widow’ box office numbers 

Disney released the Black Widow box office numbers from opening weekend. According to a press release, the film made “an estimated total of more than $215M globally this weekend, including $80M in domestic box office, $78M in international box office, and over $60M in Disney+ Premier Access consumer spend globally.”

The release continues. It states Black Widow “garnered several notable achievements,” such as being “the largest domestic box office opening since the COVID-19 pandemic began.” Additionally, “the combined theatrical and Disney+ Premier Access opening makes Black Widow the only film to surpass $100M in domestic consumer spend on opening weekend since the start of the pandemic.”

More money was spent on Black Widow theater tickets than home rentals. But one informal poll shows that slightly more people watched on Disney+. According to TVLine, the numbers break down to 48% in theaters and 52% at home. Given that multiple people can watch via one purchase at home, this makes sense.

Will Marvel continue with Disney+ releases like this?

Though Disney and Marvel very much want people back in movie theaters seeing their films, this simultaneous release strategy could continue — at least, for a little while. After all, the powers-that-be were impressed by the numbers, and anything to make them bigger bodes well for the company.

Black Widow’s strong performance this weekend affirms our flexible distribution strategy of making franchise films available in theaters for a true cinematic experience and, as COVID concerns continue globally, providing choice to consumers who prefer to watch at home on Disney+,” said Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution Chairman Kareem Daniel in the press release.

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