Black Widow soars to pandemic box office record

The first Marvel film to be released in two years drew millions to the cinema in the US.

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

The Walt Disney Co said on Sunday that the superhero flick generated an estimated 80 million dollars (£57.5 million) in ticket sales in North America.

Combined with 78 million dollars from international cinemas and at least 60 million dollars (£43.1 million) in Disney+ Premier Access rentals, Black Widow grossed more than 215 million dollars (154.6 million) in its first weekend.

Scarlett Johansson, left, and Florence Pugh in a scene from Black Widow.
This image released by Marvel Studios shows Scarlett Johansson, left, and Florence Pugh in a scene from Black Widow” (Marvel Studios-Disney via AP)

The studio said it was the largest opening weekend since Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker debuted in 2019, pre-pandemic.

It is a massive win for coronavirus-era moviegoing.

In North America, the previous pandemic recordholder was Universal’s F9, which debuted to 70 million dollars a few weeks ago.

But unlike Black Widow, which is playing on 4,100 screens, the ninth Fast & Furious movie was exclusively in cinemas.

Black Widow, starring Scarlett Johansson, has had a long journey to the big screen.

Originally slated to come out in May 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 cinemas and for a 30-dollar 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 is the first Marvel movie to attempt the hybrid strategy.

And it is 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 theatres 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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