The disappointment of Marvel's Black Widow could have larger implications for Disney

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The Washington Post 20 July, 2021 - 04:00pm 23 views

How much is Black Widow on Disney plus?

Stream for $29.99 with a Disney+ subscription See Black Widow before it's available to all Disney+ subscribers on October 6. Watch as many times as you like with Premier Access for $29.99 and your Disney+ subscription. Learn more. disneyplus.comDisney+

Black Widow's Dreykov Fixes The MCU Villain Problem (By Being Irredeemable)

Screen Rant 20 July, 2021 - 07:23am

Black Widow fixed the Marvel Cinematic Universe's traditional villain problem by introducing a genuinely irredeemable Big Bad, General Dreykov (Ray Winstone). Dreykov was revealed as the Russian spymaster who created the Red Room and the Black Widow program, and he's responsible for countless appalling acts that ruined the lives of an untold number of girls, including Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz). Unlike many of the MCU's other villains, there's nothing to like about Dreykov and that's a good thing.

Marvel Studios excels at creating characters who become beloved by fans and that's proven true of the villains as well as the heroes. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) charmed audiences to the point where he's been redeemed and now stars in his own Disney+ series. Fans walked away from Black Panther feeling like Erik Killmonger's (Michael B. Jordan) position on the impact Wakanda could make on the world had some merit. The Winter Soldier was revealed to be Steve Rogers' (Chris Evans) childhood friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and he became a fan favorite and a hero. Even Thanos (Josh Brolin) had a few qualities that could be considered debatably admirable. Many fans have even been conditioned to like the MCU's supervillains and often expect the bad guys to have a somewhat identifiable point of view because of the adage that 'the villain is the hero of their own story.'

However, Black Widow broke the MCU's mold with Dreykov. He's not a costumed supervillain and he has no codename or superpowers (except for a pheromone lock that keeps the Widows from attacking him), but Dreykov is a truly contemptible monster. When he's first introduced in Black Widow's prologue, Dreykov merely seems to be Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian's (David Harbour) Russian overseer. But Dreykov immediately betrays the young Natasha (Ever Anderson) and Yelena (Violet McGraw) and traffics them, along with numerous other young girls, into the sinister Black Widow program. By the time Natasha comes face-to-face with Dreykov in the Red Room, she realizes the scope of his evil: Dreykov planted brainwashed Widows all over the world in his bid to exercise control over the world's nations. He also wanted to brainwash Natasha so that he would have an Avenger doing his bidding. But worst of all is what he did to so many girls via the Black Widow program.

Black Widow is really about Natasha, Yelena, Melina, and Alexei making Dreykov pay for the horrors that he inflicted upon their lives, which is what finally forged their fake 'family' into a real one. Dreykov also had to die so that Natasha could avenge the hundreds of girls Dreykov victimized, including Yelena and herself. Alexei isn't even one of the little girls Dreykov preys upon but he still betrayed his ally and threw the Red Guardian into a gulag for the rest of his life.

Thankfully, General Dreykov is not destined to become a pop culture icon, nor should he be. There won't be any "Dreykov was right!" memes and no one will be clamoring for Dreykov to get his own Disney+ show. Black Widow's Big Bad is truly detestable and beyond salvation but that's also why Dreykov is such a breath of fresh air as an MCU villain.

Theater Owners Organization Slams Same Day Streaming Releases After Marvel’s Black Widow Underperforms In Week 2

CinemaBlend 19 July, 2021 - 09:08am

Last weekend Black Widow arrived in movie theaters, and on Disney+, and had what can only be described as a remarkable opening weekend. While the movie did about $80 million in domestic box office, Disney broke from tradition by revealing what the movie did in opening weekend dollars on Disney+ Premier Access, as a way of boosting the film's profile. However, it's unlikely Disney will be dropping a press release to tout the movie's ongoing success, as the movie saw a significant box office fall in week two, and the National Association of Theater Owners is blaming the decision to release Black Widow to streaming for the drop.

While Disney hasn't dropped a new press release, the National Association of Theater Owners has, and it basically uses Black Widow as a case study in why NATO believes that theatrical exclusivity is "the way forward" for Hollywood. NATO touts Black Widow's critical success and it's box office opening, but argues that based on previous Marvel movie releases, and other theatrical exclusives like A Quiet Place Part II and F9, and Black Widow's own Thursday night preview numbers, the movie should have seen an opening weekend of anywhere from $92 to $130 million. This is compared to the $80 million it received.

In addition, the $60 million that Disney says it received via Disney+ Premier Access isn't quite the windfall for Disney that it might appear to be. First, Disney doesn't keep all that money, as 15% of it is shared with various platforms. It seems that's the revenue split for those that are watching Disney+ for "free" by getting their access through a third party. In addition, NATO argues that the $60 million total isn't "new" money, but simply the PVOD money that Black Widow would have made as a digital release following it's theatrical run, which is simply being added to the film's total revenue early.

Plus there's the fact that Premier Access actually represents a lot more people in lost box office, as most households contain more than one person. And with password sharing added to the mix, that's even more potential theatrical viewers who did not contribute to the film's bottom line. Finally there's the issue of piracy, as movies released to digital platforms can be copied in a perfect condition and Black Widow is already the most torrented movie of the year. According to NATO, films that have seen a simultaneous digital release have seen significant piracy problems this year, while those that have opened only in theaters have not.

Combine all these issues together, and you have a movie that made significantly less money than it could have. You also have a lot of people that have already seen Black Widow, and thus didn't go see it this weekend, leading to the movie's less than remarkable second weekend.

Certainly the National Association of Theater Owners has a vested interest in seeing Disney, the biggest movie studio on the planet, dedicate itself to theatrical releases. By any metric, a movie like Black Widow is a guaranteed money maker and no theater wants to see any lost revenue that it could have made. While it's impossible to know how much box office money was lost due to the Disney+ release, it's obvious that the number is greater than zero.

NATO argues that the simultaneous release isn't just bad for theaters, but it's bad for Disney too, that the studio is actually not making as much money as it could by doing this. We can be sure Disney is running its own calculations in that regard. Of course, it's likely that the Mouse House is also including factors that NATO is not. Disney wants to make a lot of money at the box office, sure, but it also wants to have lots of subscribers to its streaming service, and make that new business profitable. A better theatrical box office that results in less revenue for Disney+ isn't necessarily a worthwhile tradeoff.

Whether Premier Access is the "new normal" or not, remains to be seen. Disney has already announced that its next big release, next week's Jungle Cruise, will also get the shared release, but as of now, that's the last movie that will open that way. Everything going forward will be theatrical only movies.

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.

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