In March, Disney announced that “Black Widow,” among several other 2021 films, would be released simultaneously at home – for a premium price of $ 30 – and on the big screen as the movie industry struggled to recover from the pandemic. On July 9, “Black Widow” opened for $ 80 million in the United States, setting a new box office record in the COVID era. Disney completed the film’s global journey by reporting that the Scarlett Johansson-led comic book adventure has raised an additional $ 60 million worldwide on Disney Plus.
Ten days after its debut, the National Association of Theater Owners, the industry’s leading lobbying arm, issued a fiery statement about its method of delivery. To measure, NATO liked “Black Widow”, calling it “A film so well done, well received and eagerly awaited. Yet the group says the “Black Widow” budgeted at $ 200 million underperformed at the box office and on Disney Plus.
“Despite claims that this hasty pandemic-era release strategy has been a success for Disney and the concurrent release model, it demonstrates that an exclusive theatrical release means more revenue for all stakeholders at every cycle of the film’s life, ”the statement said.
NATO’s pullback comes at a time when the film industry is still struggling to recover from the pandemic. The crippling efforts, say the film operators, are the fact that Hollywood studios are no longer showing their films exclusively on the big screen. Before COVID, new releases had to be screened in theaters for at least 75 days before switching to premium video on demand. Now, that is no longer the case. Many of the biggest titles released in the past 18 months, including “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Cruella,” were also available simultaneously on various streaming services. Yet the highest-grossing films of the year, “A Quiet Place Part II” and “F9”, were only in theaters during the first few weeks of their release.
Hollywood studios and movie theater operators have a historically controversial relationship, with the pandemic shifting power overwhelming in favor of movie distributors. Yes, studios need movie theaters to generate profits on mega-budget tents, but COVID has proven that without compelling content to show on the big screen, movie theaters don’t have as much to offer. The hot and cold factions last clashed in April 2020 when several movie chains, including AMC and Regal, threatened to boycott Universal’s films. They finally put aside this particular feud in the name of money.
Without a hybrid version, NATO predicts that “Black Widow” would have had a much bigger opening weekend, somewhere north of $ 92 million to $ 100 million. And while the film topped the opening weekends of recent releases like “A Quiet Place 2” and “F9,” ticket sales quickly plummeted. On its second release, “Black Widow” raised $ 26 million, a whopping 69% drop. Or, as NATO put it, a “great collapse in movie theater revenues the second weekend”.
Its inaugural income was not as strong as some initially perceived it to be, NATO says. When it comes to box office revenue, studios must split the profits 50-50 with movie theater owners. (However, Disney tends to get a more favorable allocation due to its box office dominance.) It gets a larger share of change in rentals, compared to box office sales. However, NATO points out, the studio fails to keep all money rentals online. About 15% of the revenue goes to the various platforms, like Roku and Apple TV, through which consumers can access Disney Plus.
“It ignores that Premiere Access revenue is not newly found money, but has been taken out of a more traditional PVOD window, which is no longer an option,” the statement said. the answer to these questions will show that the simultaneous release costs Disney money in revenue per viewer over the life of the film, ”the statement said.
According to NATO, early analyzes of the film also failed to take into account that its release on Disney Plus reduced downstream revenue and made the film a prime candidate for piracy. According to the TorrentFreak site, “Black Widow” was the most pirated movie of the week. Meanwhile, Disney Plus subscribers have the option to share their password with other households, limiting the number of transactions. NATO says Disney is not alone in facing these particular threats. This was also the case for other day-to-day releases, such as “Godzilla vs. Kong ”and“ Mortal Kombat ”, two titles from Warner Bros. which premiered on HBO Max. “How much money has everyone lost because of the concurrent versions hack?” NATO asks. This is one of the many urgent requests that remain unanswered.
“The many questions raised by Disney’s limited opening weekend data streaming release are quickly answered by the black Widow disappointing and abnormal performance, ”NATO said. “The most important answer is that simultaneous release is an artifact of the pandemic era that should be left to history along with the pandemic itself. “