Black Widow is getting the double release treatment.
In a bold reversal of their previous stance, not only with the next MCU movie open in theaters two months later on July 9 but be available on the same day as a premiere release on Disney+.
This also means a delay for Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings and other films as Disney adapts to the new post-pandemic movie world.
The new date
Originally slated to debut on May 2, 2020, Black Widow was one of the first major blockbusters to have its release shifted when the coronavirus pandemic struck in March 2020.
It was then pushed back to debut in November of that year, but after a new spike in cases, it was postponed further to May 7, 2021. Disney had been adamant that Black Widow would only debut in theaters without a Disney+ simultaneous premiere.
This has now changed as the film has been delayed for its release on July 9. It also becomes the first MCU film to have a simultaneous Disney+ premiere under their “premium access” for $30.
The new date was to be held for Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings, which will now premiere on September 3rd, 2021. At the moment, that film is only for theaters.
Disney also announced that Cruella, starring Emma Stone as the iconic Disney villainess, will premiere in both theaters and Disney+ on May 28, 2021.
Other major film delays will include Free Guy on Aug. 13, 2021; The King’s Man on Dec. 22, 2021; and Death on The Nile on February 11, 2022.
The reasons for the delay
While Disney had been hopeful for Black Widow to make the scheduled May 7, 2021 date, there had been worries for some time it wouldn’t meet the planned opening.
Even as vaccinations across the United States are going well, there is a concern for a new spike in cases which can lead to, at best, lower box office turnout and at worst, further restrictions and lockdowns.
There is also the fact that new restrictions are hitting several key international markets (such as the United Kingdom and Europe) due to a rising number of COVID-19 cases. This would cut into the global box office needed for the film.
Disney hopes that the two-month delay gives time for things to stabilize. Also, the eagerness of fans to see Black Widow can lead to many willing to pay the premium price to watch it online.
“Today’s announcement reflects our focus on providing consumer choice and serving the evolving preferences of audiences,” Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution Chairman Kareem Daniel said. “By leveraging a flexible distribution strategy in a dynamic marketplace that is beginning to recover from the global pandemic, we will continue to employ the best options to deliver The Walt Disney Company’s unparalleled storytelling to fans and families around the world.”
The dual release
While most expected a delay for Black Widow’s theatrical release, the decision to also release it on Disney+ is a surprise.
Reports are that Marvel Studio chief Kevin Feige had been strongly against a streaming premiere as he wanted Black Widow to be a theater experience. It was expected that the film would kick-start the summer movie season and welcome movie-goers back into theaters in May.
A possible factor is the lower-than-expected box office for Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon. However, that movie premiered when theaters in key markets such as New York and Los Angeles were closed.
There was also how some theater chains such as Cinemark, protested the “Day-and-Date release” by not carrying Raya and the Last Dragon. Those chains would be far more open for an MCU movie, especially one as anticipated as Black Widow.
At the same time, there had been a strong contingent of Marvel fans long pushing for the film to be released online rather than wait for theaters to reopen.
The fallout of the announcement is ongoing, but it appears that Black Widow is making history in a different way as an MCU release that’s showcasing the far different era of blockbuster releases in the pandemic-filled world.
Black Widow debuting in theaters and Disney+ on July 9.