Disney has officially debunked speculation that the long-delayed Marvel Studios film Black Widow would forego theaters to debut straight to Disney+, with CEO Bob Chapek’s confirming that the company is still “intending it to be a theatrical release.” This release strategy is reportedly being fought for by Marvel chief Kevin Feige, who is apparently resistant to the hybrid release that Disney is employing for films like Raya and the Last Dragon.
Black Widow is currently scheduled to open in theaters on May 7, marking the beginning of this year’s summer movie season. It would also make it the first blockbuster of 2021 — a status that industry insiders are doubting, as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic wears on and 60% of U.S. theaters remain closed, according to a new Variety report.
CEO Bob Chapek, during Disney’s quarterly earnings call Thursday, declined to clarify if Black Widow would still release in May as planned, but emphasized that, “We are still intending it to be a theatrical release.”
It’s a release model that is being fought for by Feige who, according to Variety, was “opposed to a hybrid rollout” of a day-and-date release in both theaters and on a streaming platform. It’s the release model that Warner Bros. is employing for its entire 2021 theatrical slate, and one that Disney is testing with movies like Mulan and Raya and the Last Dragon. However, Feige is reportedly insistent on a theatrical release for Black Widow, which likely means the Marvel tentpole will be delayed again.
Variety describes the current theatrical situation as a game of chicken, with Disney’s Black Widow and Universal’s F9 both likely to move from their May releases — it’s just a matter of seeing which one “blinks” first. If they both get postponed again, as industry insiders are speculating, it means we’ll be deprived of a summer movie season once again. It’s an increasing likelihood, with COVID-19 cases still high and vaccine rollout going slowly. At this rate, people just aren’t willing to go to theaters.
Insiders tell Variety that “Disney has three to four weeks before having to make a decision” about Black Widow, as the delay of the upcoming Marvel film would cause a ripple effect on the rest of the meticulously scheduled Marvel Studios slate, which include Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (currently scheduled for July 9) and Eternals (November 5). There’s also the Disney+ Marvel shows that Disney has to keep in consideration, with upcoming titles like Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki set to debut soon.
For now, it’s just a matter of waiting — when will Disney and Universal announce their film delays, rather than if.
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