After what seemed like forever Marvel Studios and Disney finally released on July 9, Black Widow, the first film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) since 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. Predictions and projections were all over the place over how the film would perform and be received.
At first, Black Widow performed very impressively, earning $80 million dollars in its opening weekend. This may be small compared to some of the bigger MCU hits, but terrific for a film release during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has cratered the box office worldwide. In fact, Black Widow has set the record for the highest debuting film during the pandemic.
However, the news was quick to turn against the film and Disney when Black Widow had an enormous drop in its second week, earning only $37 million dollars, a drop of 67 percent, the biggest second week drop for an MCU film. This current weekend it earned $11 million dollars, placing it in third place and it actually beat the film that displaced it in its second week, Space Jam: A New Legacy. Currently its box office haul is $315 million worldwide. Yes, that is impressive but it had a budget of $200 million and it looks like it will barely break even if it reaches $400 million by the end of its run. Consider that the average MCU film of late earned roughly $1 billion dollars and its lower earning films averaged around $500 to $600 million. These figures can be used to conclude that Black Widow will be a disappointment in the box office. In fact, there are tons of reports trying to explain its relatively poor performance.
But that is not necessarily the complete picture.
As anyone reading this knows, Disney simultaneously released Black Widow on its streaming platform, Disney+, for $30 dollars on top of a subscription to the app. Many people scoffed at paying such a high price for a film that could be seen in theaters for much less. Yet, it earned about $60 million dollars to date and that is aside from its box office haul. Surely, Disney’s accountants will point out that the streaming haul means that the film’s earnings to date are close to $400 million and anything over that is just profit.
It was also heavily pirated online, which certainly robbed Disney of a lot of revenue. Being that the film was completed over a year ago, there were many opportunities and time for it to be pirated before it was officially released.
Many have correctly pointed out that the online access to Black Widow robbed the film of its full box office potential. Theater owners are enraged that Disney did this because it undercut their business, and set a precedent for film releases going forward, although after the upcoming Jungle Cruise is released both in theaters and premier access on Disney+, the entertainment company will discontinue this practice.
Others have said that the film had limited appeal since it was not a big-event film like Avengers: Endgame and that it came out too late. Yes, given the film’s setting and the main character’s eventual fate, the film should have been released right after Captain America: Civil War in 2016 or 2017. But many circumstances beyond the film’s control prevented that and while the film is just a standalone film and is not perfect, it is a solid MCU entry that shone an overdue spotlight on Black Widow herself and her world.
Of course, the wildcard in the film’s performance is the pandemic. Hardcore MCU fans braved going to the theaters to see the film, while everyone else thought it was safer to pay for online access or waiting. However, at the time of Black Widow was released, the perception was that the pandemic was winding down given the huge drops in COVID-19 infections and deaths. But since many idiots refuse to get vaccinated or others are unable to have access to vaccines, the delta variant of the coronavirus has spread like wildfire and increased cases. In other words, the rising cases and deaths encouraged potential theater goers to stay home instead. With the pandemic it is doubtful that even an Avengers: Endgame would have performed as well as it did pre-pandemic.
So, saying Black Widow underperformed is not so clear cut. Given the many hurdles it faced it performed remarkably well and helped bring the MCU back into theaters. Hopefully the next MCU films will fare better and Black Widow itself will gain in popularity later on like many other MCU films.