SUNDAY AM Final: The Walt Disney Company sent out a widespread announcement that Black Widow made $215M-plus WW this weekend: Broken down, that’s $80M at the domestic box office, $78M in international box office, and over $60M in Disney+ Premier Access consumer spend globally. I understand that the latter figure skews more heavily toward US Disney+ Premier spending. This is the first time that Disney has released actual dollar figures about how their films did on Disney+.
Even with Black Widow coming in lower than industry weekend expectations, and we’ll have more on that in a bit, the MCU title easily repped the largest domestic box office opening since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and the largest domestic opening weekend since Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker in December 2019.
As The Audience For Almost Everything Evaporates, We Reach For Occam's Razor
Disney states that the combined theatrical and Disney+ Premier Access opening makes Black Widow the only film to surpass $100M in domestic consumer spend on opening weekend since the start of the pandemic. Disney reports that the combined dollars on Black Widow‘s opening weekend marks the highest domestic opening weekend for a Marvel Cinematic Universe origin story after Black Panther ($202M 3-day) and Captain Marvel ($153.4M)
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“Once again, Marvel has delivered an exceptional film to the delight of fans worldwide with Black Widow achieving numerous milestones in the current marketplace,” said Kareem Daniel, Chairman, Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, in a statement. “Black Widow’s strong performance this weekend affirms our flexible distribution strategy of making franchise films available in theaters for a true cinematic experience and, as COVID concerns continue globally, providing choice to consumers who prefer to watch at home on Disney+.”
“It’s incredible to see audiences enjoying Black Widow after two years without a new Marvel Studios film, and this spectacular opening weekend shows just how eager fans have been to see this beloved Avenger in her own story. There’s no question it’s been worth the wait – Cate Shortland, Scarlett Johansson, and the Marvel Studios team have delivered an exceptional film that continues a legacy of creative excellence as the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands and enters a new era,” added Alan Bergman, Chairman, Disney Studios Content.
MCU on Disney+ saw record premiere-watched weekends with Loki (per Samba TV), which bested the weekend of previous champ The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Disney reports that Marvel fans have streamed nearly 3 billion hours of content on Disney+.
How the Disney+ Premier Factor Hurt Black Widow at the Domestic Box Office
As we say above, the majority of the $60M global Disney+ Premier spend on Black Widow leans toward domestic. And if you want to know how that hurt the pic at the weekend box office, here’s how.
Black Widow took a big fall on Saturday, earning $23.3M, which, next to its Friday (including Thursday previews) number of $39.5M, reps a 41% drop, which translates to an $80M start. While that figure is higher than Disney theatrical distribution’s estimate of ~$75M pre-weekend, it’s lower than what the industry was initially forecasting on Friday and Saturday AM, and that’s because it’s hard for many box office analysts to forecast these day-and-date titles from Disney and Warner Bros.
Throughout the weekend, box office analysts continually lowered their estimates as ticket sales plummeted. Even if we backed out those Thursday previews out of Friday, Black Widow is still down 11% on Saturday, which is still big for an MCU title.
What this drops indicates for Black Widow is that the fanboys came out in a front-loaded nature on Thursday and Friday, and the regular moviegoers, who are typically part of the walk-up crowd on Saturday night, opted to stay home. Mulan, when theaters were closed, sans any domestic theatrical component, pulled in 1.12M US terrestrial Households, per SambaTV, in its first four days on Disney+ Premier (we’ll know more tomorrow). I have to imagine that Black Widow will beat that, and right there that tells you where some $30M in the opening B.O. went missing. Disney keeps 85% of that Disney+ money; they must pay the platform providers (i.e. Amazon Fire, AppleTV) ~15%.
And just so you can digest how seismic the Friday to Saturday drop was on Black Widow, on recent previous MCU titles, Captain Marvel eased -14%, Ant-Man also -14%, Black Panther -13%, and Doctor Strange -3.7% –and that’s in a situation where Friday included Thursday previews. Right there that tells you the damage that Disney+ Premier did to Black Widow‘s box office. On a pure theatrical window, the Friday-to-Saturday declines for F9 and A Quiet Place Part II were, respectively, -25% and -22%; and Black Widow drops 41%?! How’s that?
Other stats on Black Widow: Like Captain Marvel, the femme-led movie drew more guys than women. Black Widow pulled in 58% males to 42% women; while Captain Marvel was 55% males to 45% females. Wonder Woman was a different scenario, and brought in female moviegoers with 55% females, 45% males. I’ve been hearing of late that the older female demo is slightly more reluctant to come back to movie theaters with Covid-19 lingering. With kids not largely vaccinated yet, that could be the factor in keeping Moms at home with Black Widow, as there was a low family turnout here with parents at 10% and kids at 13%, to the general audience’s dominant 77%. The lack of a female turnout here on Black Widow isn’t because Disney didn’t market toward them: They ran ads on female-centric TV programming: The Bachelorette, Keeping Up With the Kardashians and The Grey’s Anatomy finale. The under-25 set turned out at 47% for the Shortland-directed MCU title.
Imax screens in U.S. and Canada made $7.2M, repping 9% of the opening weekend, from 380 screens. The domestic Imax screen average is over $19K. As we previously mentioned, this is the first weekend at the domestic box office since Presidents Day weekend 2020 that has grossed over $100M; Black Widow leading all movies to an estimated $117M.
Now, here’s the thing that Disney might be giddy about. Let’s says Black Widow did debut to $100M this weekend at the box office without the Disney+ Premier factor. The studio would be taking home roughly $60M (I hear that smaller exhibitors are forking over a theatrical rental of 60% to the Mouse House, plus a three-week hold). In this world with Disney+ stateside, the studio is taking home more money stateside for the movie in its first weekend: A $48M theatrical rental, plus let’s assume at least another $25.5M net from Disney+ Premier (That’s $30M with 15% going to the platform provider; one has to figure that Black Widow is pulling in a bigger Disney+ Premier audience than Mulan). Disney walks home with a first domestic theatrical rental and Disney+ Premier weekend of $73.5M in revenue.
In all the power and the glory and trumpets over Black Widow‘s box office and Disney+ Premier weekend, here’s what CEO Bob Chapek needs to realize: Disney is shrinking the pie. The Disney+ factor will likely hurt the tail of Black Widow‘s box office legs and long-term ancillaries. Hollywood has built a fantastic business model in getting audiences to buy the same piece of IP twice. Now with Black Widow‘s availability on Disney+, you’ve just killed a window, or at least shortened the life of that window’s revenues. Captain Marvel, off its $153.4M start, had an amazing 2.78 domestic lifetime multiple to $426.8M; I don’t think we’ll see that here on Black Widow.
Marvel movies make $1 billion at the global box office: Are those days gone in favor of shrinking the pie? What about the optics of the Black Widow IP? If Disney announces a Black Widow sequel, and pulls the same day-and-date distribution strategy, who’s to say that the box office won’t be significantly less the second time around? Can we expect Disney to report Disney+ Premier revenue every time they have a film? Will we ever know the final Disney+ Premier global number on Black Widow?
Content creators, SAG, WGA, and DGA would sure love to know. Also, there’s really no third party like Comscore to verify those PVOD figures (though being a public company, Disney can’t lie about what they exclaim). For the record, since Disney announced the theatrical-day-and-date-Disney+ Premier release of Black Widow on March 23, their stock is down 6% as of Friday’s closing to $177.04.
As of this minute, Disney is expected to pull a theatrical-day-and-date Disney+ Premier release with one more title: The Dwayne Johnson-Emily Blunt title, Jungle Cruise. Their next MCU title over Labor Day weekend, Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings, and 20th Century Studios’ Free Guy, are expected to be pure theatrical releases. Who is to say more theatrical/Disney+ Premier releases aren’t in the works?
Now, Mr. Chapek, don’t go killing golden gooses. It’s premium cinema IP that makes us want to watch it in the home. As you said, back on Disney Investor Day in December, when it came to the grease that runs the Disney+ conveyor belt, “We had a $13 billion box office [in 2019], and that’s not something to sneeze at. We built those franchises through the theatrical window.”
Here’s what happened to the top 10:
- Black Widow (Dis) 4,160 theaters/Fri $39.5M/Sat $23.3M/Sun $17.2M/3-day $80M/Wk 1
- F9 (Uni) 3,649 theaters (-554), Fri $3.46M (-58% from prev Friday)/Sat $4.24M/Sun $3.18M/3-day $10.88M (-53%)/Total: $141.3M/ Wk 3
- Boss Baby: Family Business (Uni) 3,688 theaters (+44), Fri $2.88M (-63%)/Sat $3.23M/Sun $2.59M/3-day $8.7M (-47%)/total $34.7M/Wk 2
- Forever Purge (Uni) 3,058 theaters (+7), Fri $2.32M (-60%)/Sat $2.5M/Sun $1.88M/3-day $6.7M (-47%)/total $27.4M/Wk 1
- A Quiet Place Part II (Par) 2,359 (-467) Fri $975K/Sat $1.18M/Sun $840K/3-day: $3M (-27%)/Total: $150.7M/Wk 7
- Cruella (Dis) 1,875 (-505) theaters, Fri $775K/Sat $900K/Sun $525K/3-day: $2.2M (-29%)/Total: $80.7M/Wk 7
- Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (LG) 1,904 (-678) theaters Fri $469K/Sat $650K/Sun $486K/3-day $1.6M (-59%)/Total: $35M/Wk 4
- Peter Rabbit 2 (Sony) 1,958 (-996) theaters Fri $442K/Sat $473K/Sun $335K/3-day $1.25M (-56%)/Total: $37.7M/Wk 5
- In the Heights (WB) 788 (-617) theaters Fri $185K/Sat $235K/Sun $210K/3-day: $630K (-47%)/Total $28.3M/Wk 5
- Zola (A24) 1,401 theaters, Fri $210K/Sat $235K/Sun $175K/3-day: $620K (-48%) /Total $3.5M/Wk 2
SATURDAY AM UPDATE: Disney/Marvel’s Black Widow is coming in at $39.5M for Friday, which is very close to what we first spotted yesterday. This puts the Scarlett Johansson movie at a projected 3-day start of $89M, still the best domestic opening we’ve seen during the pandemic.
Also, for the first time during the pandemic, all films at the weekend box office will exceed $100M, with an estimated $125M per box office sources. That’s the best weekend we’ve seen at the B.O. since Presidents Day weekend 2020, when Paramount’s Sonic The Hedgehog led all pics to $156.1M over three days. In addition, this weekend, weekend 28 on the B.O. calendar, is very close to what all movies grossed during their corresponding weekend in July 2019 ($126.9M). Essentially, it’s a big indicator that exhibition is back to some normalcy, even if 80% of 5,88K U.S. and Canadian theaters have reopened.
Black Widow‘s audience reactions are an A- CinemaScore –Marvel movies typically get a solid A — and the Screen Engine/Comscore PostTrak exits are 88% positive, with a 69% recommend for the general audience. Kids under 12 gave the pic an 86% positive, and a 66% recommend.
Don’t get me wrong: Those are very good audience exits, but for a Marvel movie, they aren’t platinum, when you consider that Black Widow is in a small class of A- graded MCU pics (Ant-man and the Wasp, Thor: Dark World and Captain America: First Avenger), with the first Thor receiving the lowest audience grade of B+.
Some sources are under the impression that Disney experimented with releasing Black Widow day-and-date on Disney+ Premier because the audience diagnostics weren’t as perfect as previous MCU films, coupled with the fact that the movie was on the lower side of critical acclaim, despite being 80% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
This might sound like splicing hairs, but for Disney, a slight change in audience and critical reception is like a shift in the San Andreas fault. There’s a reason why Pixar’s Luca went on Disney+: Disney can’t afford to have another Pixar movie opening in the $30M range again. That’s not the kind of business those movies are expected to do; they’re expected to dominate, and Luca, despite its 90% on RT, likely ran the risk of being another Good Dinosaur. As one major studio executive once told me about Disney: “They’re very good at making the best worst-case scenario decisions”.
Still, the Disney+ Premier of it all, more than Covid-19 hesitation, is what’s arguably preventing Black Widow from hitting $100M, the way an MCU movie should. Consider the fact that Disney began promoting this movie with a trailer drop at San Diego Comic-Con two years ago. Industry estimates expect a 30% slide today for Black Widow, the steep drop due to the fact that Friday’s number includes $13.2M Thursday previews. Back those previews out, and Saturday’s estimated $27.9M is actually +6% over Friday’s actual $26.3M.
Black Widow was guy-heavy at 58%, with 52% under 25, and close to half the audience between 18-34. Diversity demos were 46% Caucasian, 21% Latino, 16% Black, and 18% Asian/other. The pic played strong across the country, with a notable turnout in the West. Imax and PLF repped over 30% of Black Widow‘s ticket sales so far.
In regards to Black Widow‘s marketing warpath, which was turned off and on during the pandemic as the film was delayed, the pic originally had that trailer we saw at SDCC also drop during Super Bowl 2020. Disney officially relaunched the Black Widow campaign for its July weekend debut here on April 3 with a trailer and a poster, incorporating the Disney+ facet.
The first trailer had 70M global views in 24 hours, surpassing pre-pandemic trailer views. On May 3, the campaign further highlighted Black Widow with a very emotional content piece called “Marvel Studios Celebrates The Movies,” highlighting the expansive scope of Marvel Studios upcoming in-theater content, such as Shang-Chi, Eternals, and beyond; plus a shot of the audience going nuts on opening night of Avengers: Endgame back in April 2019.
I understand Disney was slightly underspending heading into the week by as much as 25%-35% on TV spots, but then ratcheted it up on Thursday with a big blast. iSpot estimates that before Friday, Disney spent $19.3M on Black Widow TV spots, which yielded a billion ad impressions. Compare this to the $23.2M which Universal spent to beat the drum on TV for F9 per iSpot.
The top networks that Black Widow aired in regards to impressions were ABC (14.8%), ESPN (11.5%), FOX (8.9%), NBC (7.1%), and Freeform (5.4%). Top shows the MCU title aired on (by TV ad impressions) were NBA basketball (7.6%), Super Bowl LIV (7.4%), SportsCenter (4.4%), Good Morning America (2.4%) and The Bachelorette (2.0%). Ads also ran on Grey’s Anatomy finale, the Jersey Shore premiere, Million Dollar Listing premiere, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and Top Chef.
Other Disney synergy beats for Black Widow included content pushes on FX, Freeform, Hulu, Nat Geo, Disney Channel, Disney Channel XD. There was a custom ESPN Integration for the NBA’s Western Conference Finals featuring two bespoke spots with NBA Players (and brothers) Lonzo and LaMelo Ball. There were Black Widow activations as part of the highly anticipated launch of the Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park, including a Black Widow and Taskmaster stunt show, plus character walkarounds, in addition to promotions at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World. There were also opening night fan events at El Capitan Theatre and AMC 24 Disney Springs (at Walt Disney World).
Black Widow also received some additional media value from co-branded spots with GEICO ($4M) and Ziploc ($293K), plus a Disney+ spot with a media value of $79K, so far. Black Widow‘s promotional campaign included more than 30 brands across the globe with custom TV & digital creative from BMW and Synchrony Bank as well. Additionally, the BMW campaign included a BTS Featurette, exhibitions in Germany and Los Angeles, and a podcast with Black Widow Action Director Darrin Prescott.
Other custom digital partnerships/takeovers for the MCU title were across Fandango (on which the pic has posted the best presales of 2021 to date), YouTube, Roku, TikTok, Amazon, and a Twitter E3 Gaming Sponsorship, plus Twitter Emoji debuts. There were also exhibitor partner circuit program announcements and art debuts (including posters for Dolby, RealD and ScreenX, collectible Imax/Regal ticket, and an Imax/AMC comic book online.
As far as social media analytics corp RelishMix sizing up Black Widow, they weighed in the pic’s social media universe before opening at 496.2M across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, which “is above normal for the superhero genre, with dedicated Black Widow pages building to 925K fans, adding 23K per day, most heavily on Instagram. YouTube views for the 25 owned domestic trailers next to the 53 owned videos on Facebook and outpacing FB views by 4X with a combined 266M views.”
Johansson and fellow Black Widow castmember Rachel Weisz aren’t activated on social, however Florence Pugh is super loud on her Instagram with 2.6M fans with the social star of the film being Stranger Things’ David Harbour with 7.1M fans, plus Shania West with 610K, Handmaid Tale’s O-T Fagbenle with 170K fans and Violet McGraw with 84K on IG.
Assesses RelishMix, “Convo around MCU super fans observes plans for opening weekend, in theaters and little social reference to the Disney+ option. Chatter compares this weekend to other recent openings including Godzilla vs. Kong and F9 — and speculating where the post-Covid-19 box office totals will land, as fans clearly know it’s ‘go-time’. Skeptics are back, too, which is a return to normal, with call-outs about breadcrumbs, casting, VFX, the upcoming virtual Comic-Con, who is the Taskmaster, if The Winter Soldier is behind-the-mask, and will Hydra make a return. Plus, in threads around the film — fans have tears of joy over the unconfirmed reports in Vanity Fair and Page Six that Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost are expecting a baby.”
Elsewhere this weekend, Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II is crossing $150M off a pure theatrical window in weekend 7. To date, it’s the highest-grossing movie of the pandemic, and likely has another $10M+ or more left in its run. The pic is posting a fantastic weekend hold of -24%. Universal’s F9 will hit $140.9M by Sunday, and Black Widow will feasibly cross $100M in sometime during the coming week. All very good benchmarks for the return of cinema.
Weekend’s top 5 films according to Saturday morning estimates:
- Black Widow (Dis) 4,160 theaters/Fri $39.5M/3-day $88.4M/Wk 1
- F9 (Uni) 3,649 theaters (-554), Fri $3.37M (-60% from prev Friday)/3-day $10.4M (-55%)/Total: $140.9M/ Wk 3
- Boss Baby: Family Business (Uni) 3,688 theaters (+44), Fri $2.8M (-64%)3-day $8.7M (-46%)/total $34.7M/Wk 2
- Forever Purge (Uni) 3,058 theaters (+7), Fri $2.27M (-61%)3-day $6.8M (-46%)/4-day and total $27.5M/Wk 1
- A Quiet Place Part II (Par) 2,359 (-467) Fri $970K (-35%)/3-day: $3.1M (-24%)/Total: $150.8M/Wk 7
FRIDAY MIDDAY UPDATE: Industry estimates –not Disney– are seeing Marvel’s Black Widow at a first day in the $40M+ range, with a shot of exceeding $90M. Conservative projections are in the mid-$80Ms over Friday-Sunday. Today’s number includes last night’s previews of $13.2M. We always footnote these Friday midday numbers as a lot can change between now and tonight. Also, there’s the Disney+ Premier factor. How much is that eating into grosses?
There’s also Tropical Storm Elsa which is dumping water and flooding streets in New York and Connecticut. While we often say rain drives people to the cinema, this is the type of rain you don’t even get in the car for; in that regard a Disney+ Premier at $29.99 of the Scarlet Johansson movie is a revenue backstop for Disney to a certain degree.
Disney keeps about 85% of the money it makes from a Disney+ Premier rental, as I’m told they must share the revenues with platform providers like AppleTV, Google Play, Firestick, etc. Again, it’s how the whole Disney+ of it all cannibalizes ancillaries down the road, and several rival studio executives and financiers tell me, only Disney knows the truth.
There is a belief that Disney+ is eating into grosses: This is an MCU movie, technically the first from Disney, after 2019’s record-breaking Avengers: Endgame (not counting Sony/MCU’s Spider-Man: Far From Home). You mean to tell me people are slow to come out for this long-awaited pic after it’s been delayed over a year from its original release date of May 1, 2020? Captain Marvel, the last standalone MCU superhero movie posted a first day of $61.7M (including previews) and $153.4M pre-pandemic. Black Widow also bridges over to the upcoming MCU Disney+ series Hawkeye.
Black Widow is settling in the range of older MCU titles, 2016’s Doctor Strange which had a $32.6M first day (including previews) and a 3-day of $85M and 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy which made $37.8M on day one (plus previews) in August 2014 and a 3-day of $94.3M (which prior to Warner Bros.’ Suicide Squad in 2016 repped an opening record for the last month of summer).GOTG is now the second-best opening of August behind Suicide Squad‘s $133.7M.
FRIDAY AM UPDATE: ‘Black Widow’ Brings The Box Office Back Alive With Record Pandemic $13.2M Thursday Night No, streaming hasn’t killed theatrical just yet, and those exhibitors who’ve gone hungry over the last year and half, received lots of bread last night. Disney/Marvel’s Black Widow kicked off its previews at 5PM earning a huge $13.2M, easily the best preview night to date during the pandemic besting Universal’s F9 ($7.1M) and Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II ($4.8M).
With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 81% Certified Fresh, industry estimates have Black Widow between an $80M-$90M 3-day start.
Black Widow opened in a further 30 material markets, including Germany, Russia, Australia, Japan, Korea, Brazil and Mexico, taking its full total to 41 material markets to date, with the first two days racking up an estimated $22.4M to date. Nancy will have a further overseas update.
Black Widow‘s Thursday night stateside is ahead of such Marvel movies as 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp ($11.5M), 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy ($11.2M) as well as Warner Bros/DC’s Wonder Woman in 2017 ($11M). Ant-Man and the Wasp‘s Thursday night represented 34% of its $33.7M opening day which yielded a $75.8M opening while Guardians of the Galaxy’s Thursday repped a third of its $37.8M Friday for a $94.3M opening. Wonder Woman wound up getting a lift over its opening weekend from its female fanbase who were hungering for the DC superhero’s big screen debut. We’ll see if there’s a similar turnout by females over the weekend for Black Widow. Wonder Woman‘s Thursday made up 29% of its $38.2M Friday, for a $103.2M opening weekend.
Among MCU previews, Avengers: Endgame owns the all-time record for all movies at $60M off showtimes which began at 6PM. That turned into a record opening day in April 2019 of $157.4M, and best ever Hollywood pic domestic debut of $357.1M.
The Scarlett Johansson standalone Marvel Cinematic Universe title also became available on Disney Premier at midnight for $29.99. Any box office success brings questions this weekend: How much more could Black Widow make? And how does this kill its ancillaries or slow its legs down the road? Also, with the whole Disney+ Premier element, it’s a moving target to determine how frontloaded Black Widow is; clearly the die-hards showed up last night. Rather than go see the movie a second time in the theater, do the fans go home and simply buy it on Disney+? Or did a quadrant of MCU fans stay home instead and buy Black Widow? The last standalone MCU movie was Captain Marvel in March 2019 and she posted a Thursday night of $20.7M. Hmmm.
Universal’s F9 led all titles in regular release last night earning $2.2M (-23% from Wednesday) at 4,203 theaters for a two week total of $130.4M. Uni, of course, had spots No. 2 and 3 on Thursday respectively with Boss Baby: Family Business ($1.94M, -3%) and The Forever Purge ($1.43M, -13%). The week’s total for Boss Baby 2 at 3,644 is $26M and Forever Purge is $20.7M at 3,051 theaters.
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