For the first Marvel movie in more than two years, the release of Black Widow was pretty muted. It only feels like yesterday that we were watching other Disney properties congratulating the Disney property Marvel for making a lot of money. “Good job on the money making, me,” the posts implied.
After a whole bunch of handwringing about why Black Widow failed to be the box office bonanza of the pandemic, IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond blamed Disney’s release model. Instead of releasing Black Widow in theaters and letting it play for a few weeks, Disney dumped the movie in theaters and on Disney+ simultaneously. While they were hoping for boffo B.O., what they got was a whole bunch of piracy and lower-than-expected grosses (though, $300 million still seems like a fine consolation prize).
Per Deadline, Gelfond told listeners of the company’s second-quarter earnings call today that Disney, basically, blew it by experimenting (and by “blew it,” we mean, “only made $316 million in less than a month”). “Every studio has seen the same data that Disney has seen,” Gelfond said. “What Disney did is experiment during the pandemic, which is what they said they were going to do.”
“There’s really no question in my mind that the combination of PVOD and a lot of piracy—people haven’t really talked about it that much—clearly there’s a lot of piracy that accounted for the cannibalization, and it significantly effected the box office at the end of the day.”
Now, maybe if Ray Winstone played a cannibal in Black Widow the numbers might be a little higher. But as it stands, Black Widow probably won’t make more money than F9: The Fast Saga. To be fair, F9 has John Cena using a very long zipline.
“It’s hard to quantify it, but some statistics I find interesting is that F9, which is the more traditional distribution model will gross about $700 million worldwide at the end of its run, and Black Widow will gross half of that,” said Gelfond. “Black Widow was a great movie, so when I think about it, there was no doubt a lot of money was left on the table.”
In a sentence we consumers love hearing, Gelfond continued, “They used to sell the same property five times, and now they’re selling it once.” Being a consumer is one of the great joys in life, isn’t it?
You’ll get ‘em next time Disney. Maybe James Cameron can post a picture of Jake Sully from Avatar putting their arm around Iron Man or something to cheer you up, and we can pretend that we’re all going to live forever.