For a long period earlier during the pandemic, all eyes were on Disney to see whether the company would bring Marvel’s Black Widow to Disney+ and theatres on day one, as it did with 2020’s live-action Mulan remake.
Eventually, Disney did indeed go this route in July 2021, in which Disney+ subscribers could pay $34.99 CAD to stream the movie. Now, we’re learning just how much that ‘Premier Access’ has cost the company.
In a larger feature about Hollywood’s approach to day-and-date theatrical/streaming releases, Deadline reports that rampant online piracy potentially cost Disney around $600 million USD (about $762 million CAD) on the Scarlett Johansson-led superhero flick in premium video on demand (PVOD) revenue alone.
That’s because people were quickly able to snag 4K-quality copies of the film in several languages and post them online. Deadline calculated this estimate based on the reported number of times the movie had been pirated — 20 million — by the end of August 2021.
This doesn’t count how much less money the movie earned in theatres due to the Premier Access release, or the $40 million-plus (about $51 million CAD) settlement it reached with Johansson over a high-profile Black Widow contract dispute.
Of course, a company like Disney will be more than fine after this, but it’s nonetheless interesting to see how much financial impact piracy can have.
The big takeaway from Deadline‘s feature, though, is that the hybrid cinema-digital release, in general, went out “like a dud.” Even movies that were offered day one at no cost in the U.S. on HBO Max, like King Richard, Reminiscence, In the Heights, Malignant and Judas and the Black Messiah, are said to have had “underwhelming” streaming audiences of two million or less.
That, coupled with the solid box office performance of films like Spider-Man: No Way Home, No Time to Die and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, is encouraging more studios to stick to theatrical-first releases. It remains to be seen whether the Omicron variant — which has already led to theatres closing in Ontario and Quebec — will alter these plans.
Image credit: Marvel Studios
Update 06/01/2022 at 2:40am ET — Updated to stress that this is “potentially” lost revenue since exact figures are impossible to quantify, as well as some added context for how Deadline says it came to this estimate.