The return of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was unprecedented on two fronts: in movie theaters and at home.
Not only did Black Widow set a new pandemic-era benchmark with an $80 million launch at the North American box office (besting the debut of F9: The Fast Saga by a solid $10 million), it raked in an additional $60 million through streamer Disney Plus (which charged a $30 Premier Access fee for in-home viewing). Adding that to domestic theatrical receipts brings Black Widow‘s debut to $140 million, and the additional $78 million earned in theaters internationally raises its three-day total a staggering global cume of $218 million.
Notably, Disney’s reporting of its D-Plus streamer earnings is a first, and serves as a significant break from the standard they’d set to keep those numbers secret. (It should be stressed, too, that the $60 million Disney Plus numbers was global, not merely domestic; Disney did not report how much of that $60 million was earned specifically in North America.)
Previously, the studio has chosen not to report the financial totals for Premier Access offerings such as Mulan, Raya and the Last Dragon, and Cruella, and no hint had been given whether Disney would change that protocol for Black Widow. The fact that they did shows just how much Disney had to brag about.
It also makes one wonder if the change came at the behest of Marvel itself which, for a time, had promised that its theatrical titles would remain theatrical exclusives.
It’s possible that the shift of Black Widow to having a theatrical / Disney Plus hybrid run came with the agreement that Disney would report earnings on both platforms. Doing so helps cement Marvel’s position as the dominant franchise in the movie industry, an important bragging right as it shifts into its post-Avengers Phase 4 era.
Streaming numbers aside, the theatrical showing alone for Black Widow set new pandemic records. Boosted by $13.3 million in Thursday night previews and a single-day pandemic record haul of $39.5 million on Friday, the long overdue solo film for Scarlett Johansson‘s Avenger nearly matched 2019’s opening for Spider-Man: Far From Home, which launched over the same post-July 4th frame to the tune of $92 million. If Black Widow had been a theatrical exclusive, it’s almost certain to have landed landed in the nine-digit stratosphere.
For further context, Marvel’s Captain Marvel had an explosive $153 million debut back in 2019. The fact that Black Widow nearly equalled that on its combined hybrid release confirms that the pandemic has not dampened audience appetites for what the MCU has to offer.
For Disney, which had to delay Black Widow‘s release multiple times from its original early-May 2020 window, it was clearly worth the wait.
The fact that Black Widow displayed this much strength even when theaters aren’t fully open (20% remain closed) shows just how much power the MCU still wields. It also gives theater owners the best hope yet that if they screen a blockbuster with enough appeal, people will come, even if home-based Video On Demand is an option.
For more perspective, Black Widow‘s made as much money in theaters by the end of Friday as A Quiet Place Part II had earned in four days just over a month ago. That shows just how quickly the escalation of theatrical receipts is trending.
F9 held onto second place, despite an extremely distant net of $10.8 million ($140.8 million total). The Boss Baby: Family Business was third with $8.7 million ($34.7 million total) and The Forever Purge was fourth with $6.7 million ($27.4 million total). All three of those films were released by Universal Studios. Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II remained in the Top 5 with $3 million and $150.7 million total so far (still tops for all pandemic releases).
That Top 5 helped fuel another pandemic-era high point: this past weekend was the first time since the COVID outbreak broke that the domestic weekend box office surpassed $100 million ($117 million total, to be exact).
Space Jam: A New Legacy will put a full court press on Black Widow when it opens next weekend, but don’t be surprised if Natasha Romanoff and her dysfunctional super-spy assassin family fend off LeBron James and the Looney Tunes like they’re the Red Room.
For now, Disney’s last scheduled dual-platform release comes at the end of this month when Jungle Cruise opens simultaneously in theaters and on Disney Plus. The next Marvel adventure, however, will be a theatrical exclusive for its first 45 days when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opens on September 3rd. Currently, Disney still hasn’t announced a platform strategy for November’s Eternals.