After losing its initial May 2020 release date to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, Disney and Marvel Studios’ Black Widow has finally settled on a release strategy: a simultaneous launch in theaters and as a “premier access” purchase on the Disney+ subscription service, both coming Friday, May 28.
Should you choose to watch Black Widow at home, this will require a one-time payment of $30 on top of your Disney+ subscription fee, which will unlock the film for repeat viewings ahead of its eventual release for all base subscribers. The same will apply to Cruella, the live-action prequel to the Disney animated classic 101 Dalmatians, which will get its own theater-and-Disney+ simul-launch on Friday, July 9.
The announcement, as distributed in a Disney press release on Tuesday, notes that this follows the “successful release” of CGI-animated feature Raya and the Last Dragon both in theaters and on Disney+ on March 5—apparently confirming that the decision made dollars and sense for everyone at Disney, following a similar release strategy for 2020’s live-action version of Mulan.
Disney chairman Kareem Daniel was quoted in the release, pointing to Disney’s focus on “providing consumer choice and serving the evolving preferences of audiences.” Though the press release loudly references issues with the global pandemic, his mention of consumers’ “evolving preferences” may imply that Disney sees some financial light at the end of the straight-to-Disney+ tunnel—especially if Disney recoups 100 percent of that $30 charge per family, as opposed to divvying up a household’s ticket purchases with distributors, theaters, and other players.
Still, the announcement finally confirms Disney’s plan to tiptoe back into theaters while also accounting for an audience that may wisely not choose that option just yet. It also sees the company play catch-up with WarnerMedia, whose bullish HBO Max platform has been locked into a similar simul-release strategy for that company’s 2021 films.
And arguably, in Black Widow‘s case, the Disney machine of new TV-series content may be contingent on that Avenger’s story before the company can move forward with particular characters or plotlines. (As in, it might cost Disney streaming momentum and cash to delay BW any further, theatrical take be damned.) As of press time, the streamer has plenty of announced content coming, including this summer’s Loki on Disney+ and a glut of Hulu-exclusive animated series. But (no spoilers here) the recent end of WandaVision alone hinted to major stakes that could be tied up in a feature-length Marvel Studios story to come.
Listing image by YouTube/Marvel