‘Black Widow’ soars to $80M pandemic box office record

Even with an option to watch “Black Widow” at home, audiences went to the movie theater in pandemic record numbers this weekend to catch the first Marvel movie released in two years.

The Walt Disney Co. said Sunday the superhero pic generated an estimated $80 million in ticket sales in North America. Combined with $78 million from international theaters and at least $60 million in Disney+ Premier Access rentals, “Black Widow” grossed over $215 million in its first weekend. The studio said it’s the largest opening weekend since “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” debuted in 2019, pre-pandemic.

It’s a massive win for coronavirus-era moviegoing. In North America, the previous pandemic recordholder was Universal’s “F9,” which debuted to $70 million a few weeks ago. But unlike “Black Widow,” which is playing on 4,100 screens, the ninth “Fast & Furious” movie was exclusively in theaters.

“Black Widow,” starring Scarlett Johansson, has had a long journey to theaters. Originally slated to come out in May of 2020, the blockbuster was delayed because of the pandemic.

Disney ultimately decided to release it “day and date,” meaning on more than one platform at the same time.

“Black Widow” came out in theaters and for a $30 rental on its subscription streaming service Disney+. Although not unprecedented for pandemic movie releases, or even for Disney, which did the same for “Cruella,” it’s the first Marvel movie to attempt the hybrid strategy. And it’s by far the biggest earner to date.

It is unusual for studios to release grosses from streaming profits in real time.

“’Black Widow’s’ strong performance this weekend affirms our flexible distribution strategy of making franchise films available in theaters for a true cinematic experience and, as COVID concerns continue globally, providing choice to consumers who prefer to watch at home on Disney+,” said Kareem Daniel, the chairman of Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, in a statement.

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