And then there were none. The last big Hollywood blockbuster holdout has finally fallen as Disney officially removed Marvel’s Black Widow from their release calendar last night. The upcoming Marvel prequel dealing with the past of Scarlett Johansson’s titular superspy was supposed to drop on 1 May 2020, but there’s no new date announced as of yet. Along with Black Widow, Disney also indefinitely delayed Searchlight’s The Personal History of David Copperfield and 20th Century Studios’ The Woman in the Window.
With the Covid-19 pandemic forcing countries into lockdown and most big North American cinema chains either closing up shop or severely limiting audience size, it made complete sense for Disney to bite the bullet and rather push their releases later when things return to normal (or whatever normal will be in a post-Covid-19 world). Black Widow is significant though due to how long Disney held off this decision when other studios like Universal and MGM more were very quick to delay titles like No Time to Die, Fast & Furious 9, and A Quiet Place II. Disney themselves pulled the likes of Mulan and The New Mutants from their calendar early on but kept the Marvel title hanging around.
The reason for this is actually a bit of a concerning one. With Black Widow off the release calendar, there’s no other sure-fire tentpole blockbuster left until 5 June when Wonder Woman 1984 hits cinemas. If it hits cinemas. What this means is that for any smaller cinema chains still open over the next two and a half months, there will be none of the big revenue they usually rely on to subsidize smaller releases and which keeps them afloat. The next best thing left is Disney’s Artemis Fowl on 29 May which is about as iffy a release as you can get, based on fan reactions to the first trailer.
And if Covid-19 is still a major concern in June and Warner Bros pulls Wonder Woman and Universal pulls upcoming animated prequel Minions: The Rise of Gru, then… Well, to be fair if Covid-19 is still a major concern in June our world has bigger problems. But on the movie business side, with all those tentpoles gone from the critical summer season, we may just be looking at the worst box office year in terms of profitability in history, as well as a number of cinemas completely closing down for good. That is terrible for the industry.
As for Marvel, with production on a number of upcoming Phase 4 films and TV projects delayed due to Covid-19 as well, they’re actually not in the worst spot. The comic book movie studio’s meticulous future planning has meant that they have a number of release dates already staked out for the next few years. A very quick and easy fix to the Covid-19 issue would be to just bump their titles up a slot or two. So Black Widow takes Eternals’ spot in November this year, and Eternals replaces Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in February 2021, etc etc.
The alternative would be to release these films on the likes of Disney+, but chances of that happening are still pretty slim, given that there’s almost no way a subscription-based streaming service will allow them to recoup the hundreds of dollars they spend on each of these tentpoles. Universal may be the first studio that has taken the plunge with simultaneous theatrical and digital release on a 48-hour rental basis, but not even they are offering that for their properly big blockbusters. If they did though, and other studios followed suit, we could be looking at a whole new way for us to consume mainstream media.
Last Updated: March 18, 2020