Can Marvel’s “Black Widow” Save the Box Office?

Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

After years of frustration and multiple COVID-19 pandemic delays, Marvel Studios’ Black Widow is finally here. The 24th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the first of what I’m preemptively dubbing “The Multiverse Saga,” Cate Shortland’s Widow was a heartwarming sendoff to Scarlett Johansson’s titular hero that also built up Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, David Harbour’s Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian, and Rachel Weisz’s Melina Vostokoff/Iron Maiden. Is this team enough to rescue the box office?

FilmRelease DateOpening WeekendDomestic Gross
The New MutantsAugust 28, 2020$7,037,017$23,852,659
TenetSeptember 3, 2020$9,353,090$58,456,624
The Croods: A New AgeNovember 25, 2020$9,724,200$58,569,000
Monster HunterDecember 18, 2020$2,201,269$15,162,470
Wonder Woman 1984December 25, 2020$16,701,957$46,534,027
Tom and JerryFebruary 26, 2021$14,112,629$46,041,123
Raya and the Last DragonMarch 5, 2021$8,502,498$54,593,490
Godzilla vs. KongMarch 31, 2021$31,625,971$100,563,133
Demon Slayer: Mugen TrainApril 23, 2021$21,144,800$47,700,000
Mortal KombatApril 23, 2021$23,302,503$42,201,013
A Quiet Place Part IIMay 28, 2021$47,547,231$150,849,725
CruellaMay 28, 2021$21,496,997$80,936,776
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do itJune 4, 2021$24,104,332$63,177,753
F9: The Fast SagaJune 25, 2021$70,043,165$141,882,510
Black WidowJuly 9, 2021$80,366,312$80,366,312
Domestic box office figures for 2020 and 2021 pandemic releases ranked in the top 10. Retrieved Tuesday, July 13, 2021.

Since March 2020, streaming services have thrived financially while movie theaters have suffered, due to restrictions during the pandemic. While countries around the world reacted differently, the United States box office has not been the same for over a year. This prompted moves like HBO Max’s Same Day Premieres and Disney+’s Premier Access, the latter of which was also available for Shortland’s film. However, it seems like the box office floodgates may be open again.

Per Variety’s reporting, Widow had the best domestic opening in the pandemic so far at $80 million. It also raked in about $78 million internationally for a $158 million opening weekend worldwide. While it does not count for box office revenue, Widow reportedly grossed over $60 million through Premier Access, bringing the film’s total opening weekend revenue to roughly $218 million. Is this trend going to continue?

Personally, I think the box office numbers will remain strong with upcoming Marvel films like Shang-Chi, Eternals, and Spider-Man: Far From Home. Those movies are continuing the brand loyalty Marvel has built up over the last 13 years and are not currently planned to be Premier Access titles. Audiences have no other option to see them but to go to the theater.

Films like Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Suicide Squad, and Dune seem like a mixed bag with HBO Max, but will probably also do reasonably well. Space Jam is a sequel to a beloved ‘90s film while Suicide Squad and Dune are both franchise films with well-known directors, all-star casts, and built-in fan bases. While In the Heights probably would have benefitted from theater exclusivity, Godzilla vs. Kong grossed at least $100 million domestic and $459 million worldwide. Those are pretty strong numbers despite the pandemic, and there were fewer vaccines available at the time of GVK’s release.

Widow’s strong opening weekend looks like the spark that gets people back in theaters for other anticipated blockbusters this summer. Sure, with more at-home accessibility, it’s certainly possible that the consumption model is changing for the foreseeable future. Those Disney+ numbers were insane, after all. Still, seeing a movie in the theater just hits different, especially a Marvel movie like Black Widow. I think that’s going to be enough. 

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