Releasing ‘Black Widow’ on Disney+ Would Be More Than a Financial Disaster: A Disgrace

With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shutting down movie theaters and postponing major cinematic releases, many theorists have jumped to the (somewhat logical) conclusion that Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) Black Widow will premiere on Disney+, as opposed to opening in theaters. 

When considering the argument, there are a few obvious benefits. One: releasing the movie on Disney+ could inspire some holdouts to subscribe to the streaming service. Two: if the film releases on time via Disney+, the studio can avoid any interference a delayed-release could have on the remaining MCU slate, as such could force the studio to push back later Phase 4 movies for the purposes of narrative continuity. Yet, though these arguments hold some credibility, there are financial issues and fan-service obligations that must be met.

Black Widow MCU
David Harbour, Florence Pugh, O-T Fagbenle, Rachel Weisz and Scarlett Johansson of Marvel Studios’ ‘Black Widow’ | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

Forbes predicted that Black Widow production costs likely paralleled Spider-Man: Far From Home’s, coming in around $160 million. Meaning, a worldwide cinematic release — with options for iMax and more would be more likely to guarantee a return on investment than added Disney+ subscriptions. And, Disney would likely be unwilling to sacrifice profit for the sake of preserving a timeline; in the end, business is business and money means everything. 

Yet, while money matters, there’s also another factor that Disney must be aware of — one that Kevin Feige definitely has swimming around in his mind. After all this time — pushing off a Black Widow movie and then relegating her solo installment to a prequel — doesn’t Johansson’s moment in the spotlight merit the silver screen? 

Black Widow cannot receive the short end of the stick…again 

While most of the original Avengers received multiple standalone installments in between mash-ups, Black Widow never received one. Thor is approaching his fourth standalone movie, Iron Man received three, Hulk cannot receive one due to legal issues with Universal, Captain America had many moments in the spotlight, and so on and so forth.

So, what about Black Widow? New heroes came onto the screen, like Captain Marvel, and received a solo movie right out of the gate. Spidey received two before Black Widow’s movie was even confirmed, and he didn’t join the soiree until Civil War. In short, many have already argued that this Black Widow prequel is an apology from Marvel— it’s a too-little-too-late way for Feige and Co. to stay on the fans’ good side. 

The writers killed Natasha off in Endgame, which will inevitably minimize the character’s influence over the continued saga; even if the writers do have a few tricks up their sleeve, it’s unlikely that they will return the heroine from the grave to impact the future landscape. After receiving the short end of the stick time and again, it would be a disgrace to send Black Widow straight to streaming. 

The studio should make fans wait; they should give the character the respect she deserves, even if it means tinkering with the Phase 4 slate. She is an OG Avenger who deserves as much consideration off-screen, as she does on-screen. Disney+ may be creating movie-budget shows, but a TV show is still the lesser of the two art forms — with the characters, the narratives, and the actors automatically deemed less worthy of a movie moment — of the risk. While the coronavirus does present a never-before-confronted scenario, Disney would be more likely to avoid pushback if they delay the cinematic release. What message does the studio wish to send concerning Natasha?