After a full year of delays, Black Widow is still on course to be released this May.
The news comes via The Hollywood Reporter and The Walt Disney Company’s first quarter earnings call. “We are still intending for it to be a theatrical release,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said during the call on Thursday, adding, “We are going to be watching very carefully to see whether that strategy needs to be revisited.” The strategy, of course, is for the long-delayed Marvel Studios film — the first of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 4 — to usher in the return of major theatrical exhibition.
Of course, that plan could be curtailed as COVID-19 numbers continue to be discouraging. The likelihood of poor box office performance due to the pandemic led to films like Black Widow and No Time To Die to flee the Spring and early Summer release schedule last year only to be continually postpone across 2020. No Time to Die has already decamped from its planned April release this year to October, with many others studios moving important tentpoles accordingly. Black Widow is currently holding the line. The trends in infections and, sadly, deaths may see Chapek, Disney, and Marvel finally give into to a version of WarnerMedia’s hyrbid release strategy — that is, release the film in theaters on May 7th and also make it available to Disney+ subscribers for an additional fee the same day.
This is the plan for the Walt Disney Animation Studio’s upcoming Raya and the Last Dragon, which will be available for a $29.99 upcharge. While seemingly steep, theater goers with children may note 30 bucks is something of a savings in certain larger cities where a single theater ticket gets ever closer to $20. In fact, we expect this rationale to become broadcast more loudly should Disney accept it will have to release Black Widow the same way.
Personally, as someone who only ever pays for a single movie ticket, I’m willing to face the upcharge if it means getting to see the film in the safety of my own home. Writing from Los Angeles County, it seems unlikely to me that movie-going will be a safe communal activity in just a handful of months.
As it happens, Chapek himself signaled this possibility when asked about the reopening of currently shuttered Disney theme parks. He admitted Disneyland, for example, is still some months away from reopening. He also suggested masks would be required for admittance into 2022. These are, unfortunately, the realities of the pandemic. And it trickles back to the theaters, where being able to operate at something closer to capacity is a must.
The clearest indication of Disney’s commitment to releasing the film will arrive when a true marketing push begins. It should happen soon, but we’ll know for certain by mid-March.