Marvel news is bad for movie fans
Disney has announced that upcoming Marvel movie Black Widow will now be released simultaneously on streaming as well as in cinemas.
Black Widow has been moved from April to a July 9 release and will also debut on Disney+ as a Premier Access title. Details for Australia has yet to be confirmed but previous roll-outs involving Disney+ have been global.
Premier Access on Disney+ costs $34.99 in Australia, in addition to the monthly Disney+ subscription fee.
The Scarlett Johansson movie had originally been scheduled to be released in early 2020 but has been delayed multiple times because of COVID. Black Widow is directed by Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland.
The Black Widow date change has also bumped two other Marvel movies to later in the calendar with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings moving to September and Eternals to November.
Spider-Man: No Way Home, which is released through Sony, will keep its December release date for the moment.
Disney also announced Cruella will be available through Premier Access on Disney+ in addition to cinemas on May 28 while animated film Luca will now skip theatres and go straight to Disney+ in June, with the latter not requiring the additional rental fee.
The announcement that Black Widow will premiere simultaneously on streaming is bad news for movie lovers who support the future of cinemas. If a brand as dominant at the box office as Marvel is willing to go down a streaming premiere route, this may well be a cork you can't unpop once the pandemic is over.
Marvel had previously held firm in not moving its films to streaming with Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige reiterating as recently as late January that Marvel made specific content to be seen in cinemas and other content to be seen on Disney+.
Yesterday, Disney said The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was its most watched series premiere on Disney+, but it did not reveal any viewing figures to contextualise what "most watched" meant in terms of its 100 million subscribers globally.
Moviegoers have been observing studios' responses to the COVID pandemic, which has seen many films such as No Time To Die repeatedly delayed, others such as Greyhound sold off to streaming platforms and some titles including Trolls World Tour in the US released on premium video-on-demand, which attracts a significantly higher fee.
Warner Bros raised the ire of many in the entertainment industry when it announced last year that it would release its entire 2021 slate in both cinemas and on its streaming platform HBO Max.
Filmmakers including Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve criticised the studio for undermining the theatrical model, especially for movies that were made to be seen on a big screen.
While Warner Bros. said the streaming and cinema hybrid release model was a temporary pandemic solution, others were not convinced that once cinemas around the world were operating at full capacity that such decisions can be reversed.
HBO Max is not available in Australia and Warner Bros.' movies are released in cinemas only.
A battle between cinemas and streaming services has been playing out for years as technology companies became more dominant in the entertainment space. COVID has accelerated the trend towards streamers.
Many cinemas around the world are still closed or operating at under-capacity. Exhibitors are fretting about the future of the business if it does not have exclusive cinema releases to attract audiences.
However, revenue generated through box office sales are shared with exhibitors whereas revenue through Disney+'s Premier Access is Disney's alone, so even if a Marvel film such as Black Widow makes less through streaming fees, it could potentially still be more profitable.
Movie lovers still supporting the theatrical model has seen rays of hope at the Chinese box office, where Detective Chinatown 3 took in more than $AU1 billion in one holiday weekend during February, suggesting that the appetite for in-cinema experiences remains strong.
Share your movies and TV obsessions | @wenleima
Originally published as Marvel news is bad for movie fans