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July 19, 2021

"Black Widow" Box Office Falls 67% as Theaters Slam Disney for Home Streaming Release

"Black Widow" made $80 million at the box office its debut weekend (the weekend before this last one), which is weak, but which was claimed to be some big triumph because of covid.

Well, in its second weekend, it made only $26 million, and theater owners are steaming about losing income to streaming.

Although I wonder how many people bothered paying for it.

After "Black Widow" took a 67% drop this weekend at the box office from its $80 million opening, the National Association of Theater Owners is swiping back against Disney's release strategy of placing the Marvel blockbuster in both theaters and on paid streaming simultaneously.

For the sake of comparison, the very crappy Captain Marvel made $153 million domestic its opening weekend, then dropped around 54%. But given that it started out so much higher, it still pulled in $69 million in its second weekend.

Update: Midnight's Edge points out that the 67% drop is the worst ever for a Marvel movie, and is about the level of the drops of the very-poorly-received Justice League and Suicide Squad.

A non-spin take on Black Widow would be to say its box office is disappointing to very disappointing.

"Despite assertions that this pandemic-era improvised release strategy was a success for Disney and the simultaneous release model, it demonstrates that an exclusive theatrical release means more revenue for all stakeholders in every cycle of the movie's life," NATO said in a statement.

"Black Widow" has a 10-day domestic total of $131 million and $264 million worldwide, having grossed an estimated $26 million this weekend. Disney reported a global total of $60 million in paid streaming sales on opening weekend but only reported theatrical revenue this weekend.

Sounds to me like there was a collapse in home streaming rentals, too!

You don't hide good news!

This is something I've been thinking about:

The trade organization for movie theaters said that a theatrically exclusive release for "Black Widow" could have netted a $90 million-plus opening at the box office. It also argued that the film's paid streaming revenue is being "pulled forward" from a more traditional premium on-demand window that would come after a theatrical run.

Back when I used to go to the movies, particularly for blockbusters, I'd very often both pay to see the movie in the theaters, and then, when it was released on DVD or made available for VOD downloading, pay to see it a second time.

I imagine a lot of people who still care about blockbusters do the same.

But this new model starts with paying for the movie on-demand.

You're not going to get as many people paying twice to see the same movie. The streaming download will be the sole payment for the movie.

Black Widow's weak box office performance is bad for Disney and bad for theaters.

But if Black Widow is not just a one-off -- if this is the "new normal" in theatrical exhibition -- then it's bad for Hollywood generally. I don't know if studios can afford to make blockbuster movies, at their typical $100-$200 million budgets (sometimes even $300 million!), if they're only going to be pulling in $80 million in their opening weekends.

And it's not just about blockbusters. If I recall correctly, studios depend on their blockbusters to make them profitable. Blockbusters are the Black Friday of Hollywood -- the thing that turns their books from red to black.

Their middle and low-middle budget movies tend to not make profits, or, even if they do make profits, they're fairly small ones. The studios need most of their blockbusters to really perform, or they'll lose money on the year.

So if blockbusters will not be pulling in $600 million to a billion (or more) in the future, the studio's entire current model will result in years and years of losing money.

Let's hope!

Coming soon from Conservative, Inc.:

The Conservative Case for Massive Taxpayer Bailouts for Hollywood

Via Midnight's Edge.

Update: After a couple of years of high growth, Disney Plus's subscriber base has almost flatlined.

Disney Plus's subscriber growth in North America appears to have plateaued. According to internal data obtained by The Information, Disney's streaming service hit 110 million subscribers total in July with 38 million in North America, which is up only about 1 million more than compared with six months ago. In that same time frame, however, the service added more than 12 million new subscribers in India, making it now Disney Plus's biggest market.

A Disney spokesperson stated The Information‘s analysis contained "factual inaccuracies and does not reflect the performance of the service" but apparently declined to provide any further information.

If true, Disney Plus's slowing growth in North America signals a few problems for the company.

A podcast I listened to said that the Indian market may be big, but it's not a money-maker -- It only costs 45 cents per month for the Disney channel in India. Someone said it's built right into mobile phone plans.

If that's true, and I think it is, then India is providing Disney with nice-looking subscriber numbers, but not much in actual revenue.

I'm sure Gina Carano is crying her eyes out over this.

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posted by Ace at 02:10 PM

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