“Black Widow,” the latest from Disney’s Marvel Studios, opened Thursday night and is set to become the biggest opening since 2019.

The film, which stars Scarlett Johansson as the vengeful super-spy, is expected to gross around $ 80 million domestically this weekend. It could do more since it’s Marvel – the biggest blockbuster brand in all of Hollywood – but that’s hard to predict as theaters are barely back in full swing. Disney puts its North American projections at around $ 70 million or more.

So far, the film, which hits more than 4,000 theaters after being delayed three times, is off to a good start. It opened at $ 13.2 million on Thursday night.

This is good news for a theater industry desperately trying to recover from a pandemic that is seriously questioning the future of cinema. Theaters couldn’t ask for a better franchise than Marvel to build on the momentum started by the strong performances of “A Quiet Place Part II” in May and “F9: The Fast Saga” in June.

“The return of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to theaters has long been one of the key dates circled on the calendar,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, told CNN Business. “The immense goodwill from fans and casual viewers, especially after a trio of hit series released on Disney +, only heightens the excitement of returning to the theater and sharing this Marvel experience again.”

The exit strategy “doesn’t look like we’re used to,” Robbins added, and there are giant asterisks at this weekend’s opening, but “it’s a big step up from to what we were a year or even six months ago. “

‘Black Widow’ at home or at the cinema

The "Black Widow" of Marvel opens this weekend.  It's one of the biggest movies of the year in theaters and streaming.
This weekend is not only important for theaters. It’s a big time for Disney + and the entire streaming industry.
That’s because “Black Widow” will debut in theaters and on the company’s streaming service simultaneously on Friday as part of Disney’s Premier Access feature, so it’s available to Disney + subscribers for an additional charge of. $ 29.99.
While Disney (Dis) has also released big-name movies like “Mulan” and “Cruella” via Premier Access, “Black Widow” is arguably the most high profile film to be streamed to date.
Marvel films have grossed more than $ 22 billion worldwide since 2008, according to Comscore (SCOR). For many fans, the Marvel movies are more like events for some and religious experiences for others, so having a Marvel movie, especially one starring such a popular character, on Disney + is not. a small matter.
"F9"  Scores biggest box office opening since 2019

Making “Black Widow” available in homes is also a great way to attract potential subscribers to the service. And its streaming release is a clear example of how much has changed in Hollywood lately. Just two years ago, it would have been unheard of for a Marvel movie to air simultaneously in homes and in theaters.

Moreover, far from the box office figures, which we will know by Sunday, and its results on Disney +, which we may never know, this weekend also poses an interesting hypothesis: what if the strategy of same-day release of “Black Widow” became standard as Hollywood moves towards a streaming future?
In fact, it’s already happening, as other studios are experimenting with releasing their own potential blockbusters in homes and theaters at the same time.

“All anyone can do is speculate and trade conjecture about the impact of streaming blockbusters on opening weekend, as studios have failed to be transparent with data from. meaningful streaming, ”Robbins said. “Either way, there are significant concerns about the entire production and content ecosystem if this publishing strategy becomes the way forward.”

Financially, “it could reduce ancillary income, which could devalue many of Hollywood’s most important assets and brands,” he added.

And the impact could go beyond the money.

“I think this has an impact on the culture of re-to watch movies”

The movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson, is available on Disney + for $ 29.99

If streaming blockbusters immediately becomes a new norm, it could change the way we watch these movies, according to Suzanne Scott, associate professor at the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas.

“For many, seeing these kinds of movies in a movie theater is a sacred experience that I don’t think they will give up just because a movie is also streaming,” Scott told CNN Business. “If anything, I think it has an impact on the culture of re-to watch movies.”

A simultaneous release model “allows for new ways to engage the film in a way that a theatrical release alone cannot,” she added.

“I can imagine a lot of fans going to see ‘Black Widow’ in a theater, then immediately come home to watch scenes again, stopping to examine the Easter eggs,” she said. “Because a lot of MCU culture involves this kind of in-depth analysis, streaming is in some ways a better choice.”

Can there ever be too much of Marvel?  We're about to find out

However, she doubts that streaming will “become the preferred mode for first viewing for viewers who treat these films as events.”

Ultimately, movie release strategies change day by day, and studios are always trying to figure everything out. The best course of action may be a hybrid model that includes a theatrical release with a streaming debut a few weeks later.

Despite the film’s importance to the ever-growing streaming world, “Black Window” is ultimately even more important to theaters, Matthew Ball, a former Amazon Studios executive, told CNN Business.

“They need a clear win,” Ball said. “And Marvel looks set to avenge their 2020.”



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