The National Association of Theater Owners is not happy with Disney's decision to simultaneously release Black Widow into theaters and onto Disney+ Premier Access. While Disney touted the film as a success on all fronts, earning $80 million in its opening weekend at the box office while also bringing in $60 million at the box office, NATO points to the film's drastic week-over-week drop at the box office as proof that the simultaneous release scheme is leaving money on the table. They blame the film's at-home availability for rampant piracy, costing everyone involved in the distribution process a significant sum.
“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,” NATO states in a press release. Comparing the film to past Marvel releases and recent pandemic openings, NATO asserts that even Black Widow's opening weekend was curtailed by home release. “Based on preview revenue, compared to the same titles, Black Widow could have opened to anywhere from $97M to $130M."
NATO goes into further detail, stating, “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. Piracy no doubt further affected Black Widow’s performance and will affect its future performance in international markets where it has yet to open."
NATO goes on to say that Black Widow isn't the only offending film. It distinguishes other simultaneous releases like those on HBO Max this year and films that have gone with a more traditional staggered release, even if studios expedited move to home viewing.
“This was also the case for all simultaneous releases (Wonder Woman 1984, Godzilla vs Kong, Cruella, Mortal Kombat)," the press release says. "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.”
What do you think? Let us know in the comments. Black Widow is now playing in theaters and streaming on Disney+ via Premier Access.