Marvel’s ‘Black Widow’ is coming to Disney+ very soon! Before ‘WandaVision’ debuts on the 15th of January. I’m certain of it!
After over a decade of approximately two movies a year, the momentum of the MCU has been severely impaired by the pandemic. Now that they’ve had to push ‘Black Widow’ a few times the whole universe is very nearly a year behind schedule and it’s holding up not just the cinematic side, but also reshuffling the Disney+ series, as there’s near-certain connectivity from ‘Black Widow’ written into ‘Falcon & Winter Soldier’. Marvel’s already having to rethink a section of the universe as it pertains to ‘Black Panther’, working out how best to proceed given Chadwick Boseman’s untimely death. So the one hitherto reliable part of Disney’s movie business is in a terrible state of uncertainty and isn’t making them any of the big box office dollars they’ve become accustomed to.
‘Black Widow’ being held up is not just a problem for Disney and the Marvel Universe, but there are probably also many product sponsorships and brand endorsements that will surely be coming to nought. I don’t know for sure, but MCU films often feature phones, cars, watches, etc, as product placement that is then intended to tie-in with their own advertising campaigns or even new product releases scheduled and timed for success. For example, there might be company holding on to their big new flagship phone or some other product because it was set to feature in the movie, or maybe just because their ad campaign features Scarlett Johansson.
Only a few months ago they revealed that there’s infrastructure on Disney+ for ‘Premier Access’, did they develop it for just one single use? I seriously doubt it. They’ve also restructured recently to put more focus on their streaming services, including plans which are set to go beyond just the family-friendly Disney+.
Cinemas are still shut in some U.S. states, and recently many that had reopened closed back down for a few months. That’d be a surprising business decision to make if they’d seriously thought Pixar’s ‘Soul’ was coming in November followed by ‘Wonder Woman ’84’ in December. Within days of exhibitors making that choice ‘Soul’ jumped to Disney+ (at no additional cost to subscribers) and that other hopeful box-office hit while remaining on the schedule has taken a rare multi-platform approach with a simultaneous release via cinemas and HBO Max. That’s practically unheard of for a film of this size. If Warner Bros are able to do that with their 13million HBO Max subscribers (according to a recent Deadline article) in just the U.S. it’s now many times more conceivable that Disney+ with their 70-something million subscribers (rapidly rising and no doubt about to jump up over the holidays) in many more territories, might try something equally bold.
In the interests of balance, I was going to argue some reasons they won’t do this, however, it’s really hard to argue against. As I see it, the only reason they won’t put it on ‘Premier Access’ for a fee, is if Disney just pop it into the library at no extra cost to subscribers as they’re about to do with ‘Soul’ in a couple of weeks and WB are doing with ‘WW84’. I even think it’s imminent. My prediction is they’re about to announce ‘Black Widow’ is coming to Disney+ in the first weeks of January, before ‘WandaVision’, which would explain why that show was pushed out of the announced end of 2020 into the start of 2021. It wasn’t production delays, it was because of a release schedule rethink.
Will they charge extra to watch it? Numbers for ‘Mulan’ are not available, Disney are keeping that info to themselves, but still, Disney have said they were happy with the way it performed via their ‘Premier Access’ service, other sources have disputed this, wondering how, as it clearly lost them money. They clearly weren’t convinced by the release strategy as they moved ‘Soul’ onto the service at no additional cost, measuring success with the Pixar film in terms of seeing if it drives a spike in subscriptions. They will then have the data and experience of the two ends of an alternative release spectrum, and feedback in the industry towards WB’s plans, fully able to better navigate their future options, calculating sweet-spot for films like ‘Black Widow’.
The biggest live-action Disney remake was 2019’s ‘The Lion King’ with nearly.$1.7b. That is low when you remember that ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ made nearly half a billion dollars more, and ‘Endgame’ made $2.8. Maybe I’m focusing on the very top of the scale a little too much. So, a better comparison might be that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ made $1.27b, yet that’s only a little more than ‘Iron Man 3’ and less than ‘Black Panther’, ‘Age of Ultron’, and ‘Avengers’. So, it’s fair to say that ‘Black Widow’ could reasonably be expected to be at least as big an audience draw as ‘Mulan’, though, based off reviews of it, and knowing the general reception of Marvel movies, I think it’s fair to say it would do better, not least in China, where reception of Mulan was at best underwhelming, really closer to unfavourable. ‘Endgame’ was the 4th biggest film ever in China, the biggest non-Chinese. The MCU and other comic-adaptations have done really well there, Disney live-action films haven’t come close. So, even opening ‘Black Widow’ in exactly the same way as ‘Mulan’ with theatrical release where possible and elsewhere a home option with some level of cost, would almost certainly be a success.
Plus, Disney will absolutely gain new subscribers, which is now their primary focus. Families who wanted to see ‘Mulan’ were likely already users of Disney+. People who love the MCU, though they too may be subscribed for easy access to the movie titles on the streaming service, may have been taking a break from it, or waiting for the interconnected series to debut. With no ‘Wandavision’ or ‘Falcon and Winter Soldier’ released they may not have been actively subscribed, biding their time and holding on to their pennies. ‘Black Widow’ would instantly change that, causing a surge of fans who’d then be likely to stay active with those series now imminent. If it’s at no added cost, just the reasonable subscription, that also offers an alternative to illegal piracy, which was rampant with ‘Mulan’.
So in summary, why was ‘Wandavision pushed back two weeks? Simple. They’re going to release ‘Black Widow’ beforehand, maintaining something closer to the original release order, and regaining momentum for the Marvel Universe.