Did anyone actually expect the first Marvel movie in more than two years to not do well?
Black Widow officially arrived on Friday, bringing some big-budget Marvel hype to the silver screen, and walking away from its opening weekend with an estimated $80 million in U.S. ticket sales. But that’s only a partial picture.
There was another (also estimated, Sunday’s not over yet folks) $78 million earned outside the U.S., including key international markets across Europe, South America, and parts of Asia. That includes a range of #1 openings and broken records in various locations.
The most interesting data point for Black Widow‘s opening weekend, though, is how this combined almost-$160 million in ticket sales happened while Black Widow also opened for at-home streaming on Disney+ Premier Access. Disney noted in an email that the movie picked up “over $60 [million]” from Premier Access, which means at least 2,000,000 subscribers paid $30 to just watch the movie at home.
Bear in mind, that’s not a huge proportion of the company’s reported 100 million subscribers as of March 2021. But Disney has got to be happy with this turnout all the same. There’s nothing to carve out for theatrical distributors when it’s Premier Access income, so even if we’re just looking at the raw numbers, that $60 million from Disney+ is probably more valuable to the studio than the $80 million from U.S. ticket sales.
In the bigger picture, Black Widow‘s dual successes in theaters and at home also suggests that Disney’s bet on streaming new releases is paying off. Mulan, Raya the Last Dragon, and Cruella previously launched on the Disney+ premium tier, but Marvel movies exist in a whole other category of blockbuster.
Theater owners probably don’t see things in quite the same way, of course. How many of those 2,000,000 subscribers who ponied up for Premier Access would have ventured to theaters if that hadn’t been an option? There’s no way of knowing. But Black Widow was hardly a disaster.
It beat F9, which opened in the U.S. a couple weeks earlier with a pandemic-topping $70 million first weekend. Taken together, it sure seems like eased pandemic restrictions are making people feel comfortable with the idea of heading back to theaters. There’s still plenty of bouncing back left to be done, but it’s safe to say that movies in theaters are back (for now).
As for the Disney+ factor, Disney wouldn’t be touting Black Widow‘s performance in a press release if it wasn’t happy with the results. Day one streaming via Premier Access is likely here to stay, and continued successes will no doubt start pushing other studios — especially the ones linked to streaming services of their own — in a similar direction.
Warner Bros. is already in the day one streaming mix, with the studio’s 2021 slate of movies hitting theaters and HBO Max right on day one. There’s no added charge to subscribers for those movies currently — and that’s not likely to change in 2021 — but don’t be surprised if WarnerMedia moves HBO Max closer to a Premier Access model at some point.