If you want to see the Marvel blockbuster “Black Widow” in cinemas in this country, you either have to go a long way or have to forego it entirely. Several cinemas are boycotting the film because the film was also released as a stream. An understandable measure. But the success proves Disney right. A grudging comment.
First of all: I love cinema. For me it is still the best and most important place to soak up a new film for the first time in all its audiovisual and narrative splendor, to enjoy it, to experience it with all your senses, body and mind. The corona crisis, like many others, prevented me from taking the ritualized walk to the movie theater. Instead, I crouched in front of the TV a lot more often, streamed a little, annoyed myself about connection errors or rather switched on the Playstation. Streaming is the big equalizer that turns a work of art into a footnote. For my film experience, the difference between cinema and TV is like the difference between a gallery and Google image search if I would want to look at a painting. The space counts. The atmosphere in which respect, awe and the celebration of the art form resonate and become noticeable counts. The effort to physically surrender to the work and mentally adjust to it counts. My dedication counts. Yours too. But not at home like that. Instead: algorithms that want to see through me and the overwhelming psychology of the constantly growing watchlist. Spotify on shuffle instead of album on vinyl.
Of course I was looking forward to the reopening of the cinemas to see small pearls like “Ich bin dein Mensch” by Maria Schrader as well as big riot or horror movies like “Godzilla vs. Kong” or “Conjuring 3”. “Black Widow” is also on my list. But many will probably not see the new blockbuster on the big screen, since several cinema chains have not included it in their program. This would not be economically viable, as otherwise high fees would be incurred and visitor expectations would be significantly lower due to the simultaneous streaming start. As an advocate of cinema, I initially thought that it was the painful decision, but it was the right one. “Not like that, Disney!” I thought reflexively and in a madness of cinema dogmatism. A sign for the cinema!
“Black Widow”: Strong numbers at Disney +
But hold on. Like the industry magazine, among others Variety reported, Disney has now published specific figures on the performance of “Black Widow” on the in-house streaming service Disney +, where the film is currently available digitally for 21.99 euros. As a result, the latest entry to the MCU has raised more than $ 60 million from streaming alone – 60 million that the studio doesn’t have to share with theaters. A not to be despised sum, which also has a not to be underestimated part of the global total: At the US cinemas 80 million dollars were sold on the first weekend, internationally 78 million from 46 nations were added. Other markets will follow, including the very important one in China. But until then, more households will certainly continue to stream the film.
In pandemic times, these are record-breaking numbers. But without Corona, a Marvel film would make as much in cinemas in the US alone as it does now worldwide. Nobody should forget that success is measured at a significantly lower level than ever before. In addition, “Black Widow” is said to have devoured an estimated 200 million in production costs, not to mention the certainly immense expenditure on marketing, which is only likely to have increased over the many months due to the corona-related postponements. Believe it or not, Cate Shortland’s work is still a long way from being a really profitable hit. Right now, every dollar wagered counts, no matter where it comes from.
Disney + as a safety net
It is obvious that the cinema alone cannot achieve the desired success: in Germany the halls may be open again, but they are only operated with a lower occupancy capacity. There are still many hygiene rules in force, in many places it is mandatory to wear a mask per se, and you have to be vaccinated, recovered or at least tested negative at the moment. In addition, many people are generally still hesitant about going to the cinema, the other conditions increase the hurdle even more. In other countries, however, there are even stricter requirements, as the virus is more rampant there. It is completely unclear whether the waiver of the simultaneous evaluation at Disney + would have lured so many more people into the cinema in order to write identical or perhaps even better numbers.
The digital offer is not that bad, however, if you put less emphasis on the cinema itself (what a sacrilege). The around 22 euros may seem a lot for a single household at first. But you can watch the film as often as you want. If life partners or families come into play, VIP access at Disney + becomes virtually affordable. So if you can and want to, you should also stream “Black Widow”.
Setback for the cinema – but a statement for films
And actually it has to. Because as much as I have cinema in my heart – I also love films in themselves. And I have a lot of fun watching loud, high-impact spectacles every now and then. I like to watch well-known stars at work and am delighted not only with sophisticated contributions from the European arthouse scene, but also with cinematic bundles of energy such as “Mad Max: Fury Road”. Unfortunately, they cost a lot of money, but I still want studios to be able to produce them in the future.
Even if I’m worried about the future of cinema and want to visit it as often as possible, I have to grudgingly admit that the $ 60 million in sales at Disney + for “Black Widow” surprised me. I wish that the sum was nowhere near as high and that the higher proportion of the total income is still clearly attributable to the cinema. But Disney + is not yet available to every country in which the film is shown in cinemas – so digital revenues have the potential to be much higher. In addition, strong competition in the form of “Fast & Furious 9” is already in the starting blocks for the German cinema market. The exclusive evaluation window in the cinema may not have existed for “Black Widow”, but streaming gives the powerful heroine an even bigger one to survive. After all, the local cinema industry is very happy with Black Widow, like Focus: film writes. On the first weekend, as many tickets were sold for a restart as since “Tenet” in summer 2020. It could have been more.
So I can only hope that “Black Widow” will actually make a profit in the foreseeable future. Not just for Disney. But also for films. And thus for the cinema. If you like, then also through streaming. I will do my part and spend my money on “Black Widow” and hope that many will do the same. No matter where and how.