Disney has done the inevitable: delayed Black Widow. And its hybrid platform release will be a first for Marvel Studios.
Even as theaters begin to reopen nationwide, the ramp-up to a level that a tentpole like a Marvel blockbuster requires will need more time than what theaters have between now and May 7, when Black Widow had been scheduled to launch.
Now, the pandemic-delayed Avenger stand-alone starring Scarlett Johansson will finally hit multiplexes this summer on July 9, 2021. It will also debut simultaneously on Disney Plus, but with the additional Premier Access fee of $30. That’s a major concession for both Disney and Marvel which, until now, had remained publicly committed to theatrical exclusivity.
With the interconnected MCU calendar continuing to backlog even as multiple new Marvel series debut on the Disney streamer, the compromise is understandable and necessary. Even so, if theater reopenings (and audience sizes) accelerate even faster and greater than anticipated, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if Black Widow‘s hybrid plans are revoked and its July launch becomes a theatrical exclusive.
The Black Widow bump causes another MCU shift, too. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the Phase 4 entry meant to drop after Black Widow, slides from its July open to a September 3 launch. Disney intends to keep that as a theatrical exclusive. No shift was announced for Marvel’s The Eternals, so its date still holds at November 3, 2021.
Meanwhile, Disney will stick to a May 28 hybrid “theaters-and-Premier Access” release of Cruella, the live-action origin story of the iconic 101 Dalmatians villain. It stars Emma Stone in the title role, along with fellow Academy Award winner Emma Thompson.
Taking a different approach, Disney announced that Pixar’s new animated adventure Luca will stick to its June 18 date BUT that it will become a Disney Plus exclusive, foregoing a theatrical run altogether. Luca will be offered as a regular Disney Plus title, minus the added $30 Premier Access fee.
It’s the second Pixar feature to follow this strategy (2nd in a row, no less). Soul went down the same path on December 25, 2020.
No reasoning was given as to why Disney continues to go with a hybrid “theaters-and-Premier Access” approach for titles out of Marvel and Walt Disney Studios (like the current Raya and the Last Dragon) but denies Pixar the theatrical option. As a theater advocate, the lack of a big screen availability for Pixar movies is as frustrating as the complete silence from Disney as to why Pixar is handled so differently.
Disney has also delayed all of its 2021 titles from 20th Century Studios as well. Those include:
- Free Guy (Ryan Reynolds action-comedy), from July 3 to Aug. 13, 2021
- The King’s Man (Ralph Fiennes action-prequel), from Aug. 20 to Dec. 22, 2021
- Deep Water (Ben Affleck affair-murder mystery), from Fall 2021 to Jan. 14, 2022
- Death on the Nile (Kenneth Branagh Poirot sequel), from Sept. 17, 2021 to Feb. 11, 2022
No details were given regarding platform release strategies (i.e. theatrical, streamer, or hybrid) for the 20th Century slate.