Last week, Marvel Studios and Disney had a lot to celebrate as they ended up with a solid domestic weekend opening of $80.3 million after delayed Black Widow over a year due tot he pandemic making it’s unfathomable to release a massive Marvel last year.
Well, in it’s second weekend there is less to be happy about after Space Jame: A New Legacy toppled the MCU film from the top spot earning a decent, but not great, $32 million. Black Widow on the other hand is estimated to have earned $26.3 million, a steep 67% drop from opening weekend and with more new releases coming in July-August it would suggest that that number will only continue to dwindle.
This makes it the biggest second weekend drop in modern MCU history.
While the pandemic is still very much a thing going on in the United States, you really wouldn’t know it looking at the last couple of weekends at the box office as people are still risking their lives and others by watching these movies in person as variant cases grow and vaccination rates have stalled.
There are a lot of factors here such as mostly front-loaded opening weekend numbers have become the norm during the pandemic and added competition could mean people are less likely to give repeat in-theater business. Another big issue is releasing the film on Disney+ via Premier Access at the same time as theaters, this means people can watch endlessly at home after paying their purchase fee and because it hit a streaming service HD/HDR versions of the film have hit torrenting sites, meaning there is now an option for people to simply download a perfect without paying (morally wrong but also socially acceptable among younger demographics).
Disney was finally eager to reveal their Premier Access numbers last weekend at $60 million, hoping that would lessen the sting that it “looked like” film underperformed compared to their other recent solo films such as Black Panther and Captain Marvel, both eventually earning a billion-plus at the global box office (Black Widow isn’t likely going to make anything close to that). It even made less opening weekend than Doctor Strange’s $85 million from 2016. Sadly, those Premier Access earnings can’t be applied to real box office totals and were really only window dressing. Studios take final box office totals real seriously and it looks like their hybrid release could end deflating the film’s global cume by at least $100 million, if not more.
This doesn’t mean Black Widow is going to be a flop, by any means, but it’s not great and the studio is likely looking towards the overseas market to help push the film into the profit zone with a release in China on the horizon.
Theatrical windows have always been buffers to online piracy and might be why Disney stated they will returning to a 45-day window for Shang-Chi & The Legend of The Ten Rings. I don’t think Disney is ready to go all-in on a hybrid model of Black Widow’s second weekend numbers are any indication.
The importance of a theatrical widow is something that the National Association of Theater Owners just echoed in a press release hammering Disney’s hybrid release model. Suggesting that the company attempted to maximize profits (Disney doesn’t have to share Disney+ earnings with theaters) by damaging the theatrical earning potential and referred to this weekend’s box office drop as “a stunning second weekend collapse in theatrical revenues.”
“Black Widow should have opened to anywhere from $92-$100 million. Based on preview
revenue, compared to the same titles, Black Widow could have opened to
anywhere from $97 to $130 million,” NATO added in their press release.
They also mention out that films such as F9: The Fast Saga and A Quiet Place Part II seemed to have healthy subsequent weekend earnings because they weren’t easily pirated like the HBO Max releases and now Black Widow. The long-established buffer for piracy simply vanished.