There have been rampant rumor and speculation over the last couple of days about Black Widow heading to streaming (free with a subscription on Disney+) or VOD (paid rental), this stemming from Disney announcing that they would be removing the film’s May 1st release date and the studio not giving it a new date.
This has led to many people in the fan community to speculate or straight-up guess (leading to “rumors”) that Disney will instead of waiting until theaters balance-out they’ll stick potential billion-dollar grossing movies on Disney+ throwing away future box office profits when they’ll likely need them most.
Red Guardian actor David Harbour recently supported the streaming idea during a Q&A on his Instagram account (via Independent), hardly official though.
HARBOUR: “My publisher also sent me an email saying Black Widow had been postponed and I think I replied ‘shocker’. Wouldn’t it be fun if we all could just stream it? But that’s above my pay grade.”
Thankfully, Disney isn’t looking to their actors or impatient fans for business advice.
ComicBookMovie reached out to Disney about the streaming/VOD rumors and they insist they’re still “definitely” releasing Black Widow theatrically but weren’t able to get them to reveal a new date.
Throwing Black Widow on streaming would mean they wouldn’t be able to recoup production costs and a potential billion-dollar movie suddenly becomes a Disney+ movie like Lady & The Tramp, something I’m sure would freakout already panicked shareholders.
Back in January, Bob Iger said that had zero plans to make Star Wars movies for Disney+ because of the costs involved, while Black Widow isn’t Star Wars, it likely has similar costs involved given the Marvel Studios budgets are between $150-200+ million.
IGER: “Almost every movie the studio makes is a $100 million-plus movie, and we’re not looking to make movies at that level for the service. We’re looking to invest significantly in television series on a per-episode business, and we’re looking to make movies that are higher budget, but nothing like that. We wouldn’t make a Star Wars movie for this platform. When everybody goes out on the weekend and you have a movie that opens up to $200 million, there’s a buzz that creates that enhances value. We like that. And eventually, the movies we’re making are going to [end up on] the service.”
Some are trying to rationalize on how much Disney is spending on shows, however, the shows have a longer running time than two-plus hours because they’re running at 6-8 episodes depending on the project, much longer than a single feature film. The lack of content on Disney+ doesn’t seem to be enough incentive for the studio division to sacrifice their theatrical slate and box office earnings for the foreseeable future.
While VOD is a much more financially lucrative than streaming, it still lends itself to a massive amount of piracy and considering the steep prices of VOD releases compared to theatrical ticket prices could push a generation comfortable with torrenting not to pay for it, simply because of the easy access online (something curbed by theatrical releases as the bootleg quality is still terrible compared in-theatre experience).
In the coming weeks and months due to the coronavirus affecting people across the globe, many are going to continue to lose work and have less money to spend on luxury items like an expensive VOD film or possibly even their Disney+ subscription as people might have to cut back on how many streaming services they’re spending on. Instead, putting that money towards food and utilities.
Waiting actually isn’t the wrong move here. They can lose a big amount of money if they drop on VOD or streaming as whatever profits they assumed they’d get would be greatly impacted by piracy as torrent sites would have HD copies of the film instead of poor-quality bootleg cam copies distributed online, but if they wait they’ll only give up marketing dollars.
Pushing release dates an entire year or a couple of months is not a foreign concept to studios as they’ve been doing it for a long time prior to the pandemic and fan impatience doesn’t outweigh the horrible financial reasoning about turning billion-dollar movies into home releases. Production delays on a bunch of their 2021 releases could mean that those release dates might open-up where they could shift 2020 projects into.
I’m not saying it’s impossible, just improbable.
Disney will likely make some sort of announcement concerning their 2020 release slate at some point in the future.