Nearly a year after the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic wrought havoc on movie releases, the fate of several films is still up the air.
However, despite rumors, Disney CEO Bob Chapek has debunked the idea that Black Widow will debut on Disney+ rather than in actual cinemas.
The Widow’s sting
The long-anticipated solo film starring Scarlett Johansson’s super-spy was going to kick off “Phase 4” of the MCU last year.
While Natasha Romanoff met her demise in Avengers Endgame, this spin-off is a prequel of Black Widow engaging in a personal mission that reaches into her past.
The film was to debut in theaters on May 1 2020 until the pandemic caused numerous movie delays. It was pushed back until November 2020 before that too was ruined by new spikes of cases and is currently set to open on May 7.
Bucking the new formula
With still no clear signs of when movie theaters can fully open safely, studios have been scrambling for new ways to get blockbusters to audiences. Streaming services have become their key backup plan.
After it was the first blockbuster whose planned release was canceled by the pandemic, Disney released Mulan exclusively on Disney+ for added cost to subscribers.
Disney also released the Pixar film Soul exclusively for the streaming service at no added price rather than a theatrical release of any sort.
This led to the belief Disney would likewise release Widow for Disney+ either alongside or even instead of a regular theatrical release.
But Chapek, during the quarterly investors’ call with Wall Street analysis, stated the company still plans to release Black Widow in theaters only.
The contiuing risk
While hopeful for the film’s planned release, Chapek did acknowledge the reality will depend on the state of the pandemic in the spring. Even with vaccines being rolled out, there may be wariness of some movie-goers to be inside an enclosed room for a few hours.
We had made a reference at the investor conference that Black Widow was going to be a theatrical release and we’re still intending it to be a theatrical release but, again, we are going to be watching very carefully the reopening of theaters and the consumer sentiment in terms of desire to go back to theaters to see whether that strategy needs to be revisited. But as of now the strategy is to continue on with the theatrical release and we’ll be watching very, very carefully.
Disney will be releasing Raya and the Last Dragon in both theaters and Disney+ on March 5. Unlike Warner Bros, they have no plans for such simultaneous release with their planned slate of 2021 films such as Jungle Cruise (which, like Widow, was delayed from last summer).
While Disney seems confident of Widow debuting in May, the possibility of yet another delay is all too real depending on how safe theaters can be in a few months. However, foregoing the theatrical release can also be a blow.
As popular as a movie can be on Disney+, it would not offset the cost of Widow’s budget (said to be between $150-200 million). There’s also how this is meant to kick off the next phase of the MCU and thus more important as a theatrical release.
While the exact release date may still change, it appears Disney remains committed that Black Widow’s solo adventure will premiere on the big screen rather than the small one.
Black Widow is scheduled to debut in theaters on May 7.