Comic book aficionado Kevin Smith says Marvel Studios movies like the upcoming Black Widow are much too valuable to release directly on Disney+, even as the coronavirus crisis keeps movie theaters closed for the foreseeable future. Disney last week announced the Kenneth Branagh-directed Artemis Fowl, once planned for a theatrical release on May 29, will skip theaters and be released directly to Disney+ later this year. Unlike Pixar’s Onward, made available by Disney on its streaming service after an abbreviated theatrical run and a two-week period where the film could be purchased to own on digital platforms for $19.99, Smith believes Black Widow would only forgo a theatrical release if its digital rental cost was priced at $100.
"I think [releasing Artemis Fowl straight to streaming] is a smart play. I don't think you'll ever see that happen with a Marvel movie," Smith said on FatMan Beyond Live. "I don't think they're gonna play their big money cards. Think of it as somebody sitting there playing Uno. They just laid down a skip card to buy themselves some time. Artemis Fowl, they're like, 'Skip. You can watch that on Disney+.'"
Disney+ will soon host several big-budget and exclusive Marvel television shows produced by Marvel Studios, Smith notes, including The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and WandaVision.
"They're not gonna stick a Marvel movie on Disney+ because they've got some Marvel TV shows coming, and they gotta keep them Marvel movies valuable," Smith said. "Because those movies make f—ing money, man, legit f—ing money."
"Disney said this isn't going to be the only one of our theatrical releases to come to Disney+ first," countered co-host Marc Bernardin, referring to Disney executive chairman Bob Iger expressing an openness to other Disney feature films skipping theaters, "but I agree with you that I don't think you're gonna see a Marvel movie on Disney+."
"But I do think you might see a Marvel movie just for sale, on iTunes," Bernardin added. "$25 at home for Black Widow? Because Disney+, they're not making any revenue on it."
But a Marvel Studios blockbuster-to-be skipping theaters and landing on digital platforms, Smith says, is something he can't see happening.
"Honestly, the only way they could do it — and I bet you they could, I bet you this would work — you put out Black Widow on transactional video and you charge $100 a copy. People would still buy it, dude. We're crazy, we're stupid," Smith said. "Think about it, it's even a pretty good deal if you've got a big household. You've got five people in the house, that's what you'd spend going to see it in a movie theater, you get to watch it in the privacy of your own home."
Smith continued, "If we all did that, that would change the world. That would change the business. They'd be like, 'F— movie theaters! Sell them these movies for $100 a pop. It's like the good old days of VHS.'"
Iger, who has since temporarily reasserted control at the company to steer it through the crisis after Bob Chapek became Disney CEO in February, recently told Barron's the studio's tentpole movies would be keeping their theatrical release, just postponed to later dates.0comments
"In terms of movies going ahead after Artemis, there may be a few more that we end up putting directly onto Disney+, but for the most part a lot of the big tentpole Disney films, we'll simply wait for slots," Iger said. "In some cases we've announced new [dates] already, but later on in the calendar."
Black Widow is scheduled to open in theaters November 6.