AMC Theaters' Coronavirus Policy Means Bad News for Black Widow Release Date

Due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak, most movies between now and May have shifted their release dates until later in the year. First, No Time to Die pushed its release from April all the way to November. Then came Disney's Mulan, Universal's Fast & Furious 9, and a host of others. One constant among the change has been Black Widow from Marvel Studios, staying in its May 1st date despite all other movies vacating surrounding weekends. In fact, between now and then, only four wide releases are still on the schedule out of six potential opening weekends — My Spy, Trolls World Tour, Antebellum, and Bad Trip.

May is still a month and a half away, yet theaters are already making preparations for the long haul. Friday afternoon, AMC Theaters announced it'd remain open during the impending crisis, with several new rules and procedures in place. As such, the theater chain is implementing a new "social distance" rule, which will end up halving theater capacities across all 11,000 screens under the AMC umbrella. AMC says the new rules will be in place effective March 14th and last at least through April 30th.

If you were a studio executive in control of distribution, one would think those new rules — from America's biggest theater chain, no less — would envoke a slight panic attack if you were worrying about a release date within that window or, for that matter, even near.

Let's take a quick look at Marvel's latest solo features to hit theaters. Captain Marvel opened to the tune of $153 million last year, while Black Panther raked in $202 million on opening weekend the year prior. Then you have films like Spider-Man: Homecoming and Doctor Strange that earned substantially less than either of the aforementioned properties, grossing $117 million and $85 million on opening weekend, respectively.

If we used crude math — and we mean really crude math — just going by the AMC procedures and assuming half an audience opening weekend, that means Black Widow would make between $42.5 million (half of Doctor Strange) and $105 million (half of Black Panther) opening weekend.

For the record, the first total would make it the smallest Marvel Studios opening weekend, $10 million below The Incredible Hulk's $55 million haul in 2008. $105 million, on the other hand, would place it right between Iron Man and Captain America: The Winter Soldier right around the middle of the MCU rankings.

Then again, maybe this is all for naught. The potential remains things could turn around and Black Widow will do just fine. The fact of the matter is, however, is we're living in an unprecedented scenario and things change every day.

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Black Widow is currently set for release on May 1st.

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