Wonder Woman 1984 moved its release date from early October to December 25, 2020. Now, eyes are turning to Black Widow, the Marvel film slated for November 6, 2020. Marvel Studios has remained largely silent in regards to production and release dates since pushing back all of its films and halting production earlier in the year. As November 6 nears, a decision will have to be made sooner than later. Will Disney start marketing the film and go all in on a November 6 theatrical release date for Black Widow or will they push Black Widow (and therefore all of the following movies in the Marvel Studios franchise) further into 2021?
There are no more blockbuster films slated to release in theaters between now and November 6. Warner Bros. released Tenet, the first big film to drop since theaters closed down due to the global pandemic in March. Wonder Woman 1984 was the last possible test run for Disney to watch if they were going to base their decision on Black Widow on how others performed. Tenet's opening weekend box office was certainly not what it would have been under normal circumstances but it also was not disappointing from a financial standpoint. Tenet managed to haul in more than $20 million over the Labor Day weekend. In fact, it was the second largest Labor Day weekend box office haul in the past five years with only Crazy Rich Asians having made more over the same holiday span since 2015. It also nabbed an impressive $53 million internationally, prior to opening in the United States, and has surpassed $150 million worldwide in its run so far.
The hope from Warner Brothers is that the film has legs and people continue going to see it slowly as the all-at-once outing is certainly not an option. Could a few weeks of Tenet having box office legs convince Disney to drop Black Widow in theaters as currently planned? Maybe. Both Tenet and Black Widow have considerable runways with no major titles following them for several weeks after their respective releases, so the standard new movie competition is obviously not the issue in a year like 2020, but it becomes a daunting challenge in the packed out 2021 and beyond.
Barring any changes to the global circumstances and safety measures, Black Widow would likely have a bigger opening weekend and outing overall than Tenet. However, Disney is not only facing the decision with financial goals in mind. Disney potentially opens itself up to criticism or backlash from those who believe it is in poor taste to release a blockbuster film exclusively in theaters during the pandemic, despite theaters enforcing social distancing and other safety measures.
As Wonder Woman 1984 is banking on the pandemic becoming more controlled by the end of December, Black Widow has merely seven weeks if it is hoping to see any significant changes ahead of its theatrical opening.
Disney did make an interesting move with Mulan earlier this year. The film was slated to hit theaters but ultimately shifted its release to Disney+ at a price added to its regular subscription fee. After mixed reviews, the film still managed to haul in $33.5 million in "Premier Access" purchases. Back when it was expected to hit theaters, box office tracking had the movie opening much larger in just its first weekend. This release style was dubbed as a one-off effort but likely also served as a test of sorts for major productions to be released on demand.
Perhaps Black Widow could release as a combination of the two ideas. Black Widow can play in theaters where theaters are accessible and safe while also being made available on Disney+ for a fee for those who cannot get to or do not want to get to a theater? There is an onslaught of reasons why this might not work, financially and legally, but it seems like the happiest middle ground to get things moving again.
It's ultimately a difficult situation with no clear cut win for Disney. Delay Black Widow until the uncertain point in time when theaters and all out-of-the-house activities are deemed 100% safe and the entire Marvel franchise, Disney's biggest money-maker, is also then put on hold. Release it in theaters as planned and run the risk of backlash and possibly putting some moviegoers into a unsafe situation... Perhaps it's time to find a middle ground, which keeps both fans content, allows Disney to stat making some money in a year which has been brutally difficult for one of the the world's largest brands, and does not delay the entire Marvel franchise.
It's strange to think that the interconnected word which helped make Marvel so successful is now one of the single most difficult obstacles to overcome as Marvel Studios looks to expand its saga both in theaters and on an at home streaming service.1comments
Disney has not commented on Black Widow's current release date or a possible change. For now, we wait.
What do you think Disney and Marvel Studios should do about releasing Black Widow? Share your thoughts in the comment section or send them my way on Instagram!