It’s been over 20 months since Marvel released a movie. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” marked the end of the Infinity Saga and the studio should be well into Phase Four by now. However, the pandemic has majorly stumped Marvel’s rollout of new superhero flicks. At the top of the list is Scarlett Johansson‘s solo film, “Black Widow.”
The film has been delayed twice from its original May 2020 release date. “Black Widow” is currently set to exclusively hit theaters on May 7, 2021. However, Disney CEO Bob Chapek has recently emphasized the importance of remaining flexible, saying:
“Our situations and our conditions change. I mean, just a few weeks ago theaters in New York and Los Angeles weren’t even open, and now all of a sudden they’re open. So we’re waiting to see exactly how guests respond, prospective theater-goers respond, to these re-openings. And we’re going to remain flexible. We’re going to make the call essentially, probably, at the last minute in terms of how these films come to market – whether it’s Black Widow or any other title.”
Disney’s Distribution Nightmare
Disney‘s distribution strategy has vexed the industry over the past 12 months. When the pandemic first hit, the studio released “Onward” on Disney+ at no additional cost. The now nominated Best Animated Film was in the middle of a theatrical run when it appeared on Disney’s streaming service. However, the media conglomerate cancelled “Mulan’s” United States theatrical release and instead debuted the film on Disney+ Premier Access. After three months, the film appeared on Disney+ at no additional cost.
This seemed to be Disney’s new release strategy. That is until they released “Soul” on the streaming service. “Soul,” which is also a Best Animated Film nominee, didn’t have a theatrical release and was available to subscribers at no additional charge.
“Raya and the Last Dragon” complicates matters even further. Earlier this month, the latest Disney film hit theaters and premier access simultaneously.
Marvel May Be Different
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is undoubtedly Disney’s biggest asset. Until last weekend, “Avengers: Endgame” was the highest grossing film of all time. And with Spider-Man, Thor, and Doctor Strange all in the middle of production, audiences should only expect the Marvel Cinematic Universe to expand.
Beginning with “Black Widow,” Disney has four Marvel movies slated for theaters in 2021. Until recently, the company has tried their hardest to ensure these films have exclusive theatrical releases. However, the success of “WandaVision” may have changed that. The first Marvel Studios series was the talk of the town during its 7-week release on Disney+. Additionally, the hype behind “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” proves that their content will have a huge audience should they decide to go the streaming route.
While it would far-fetched to assume “Black Widow” would get anything less than a premier access release, it’s becoming a strong possibility. Now that Los Angeles and New York City have reopened theaters, Disney should allow “Black Widow” a theatrical run. But, given the incredible success Marvel has had on Disney+, it would be ridiculous not to simultaneously release the film through premier access.