5 WEEKEND BOX OFFICE TAKEAWAYS: Black Widow Opening Weekend

Photo Credit: ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. ("Black Widow")

As Disney and Marvel Studios’ action prequel Black Widow launched with the biggest theatrical opening weekend of the “pandemic-and-post-pandemic” era at $80.3M domestic, here are five lesser-noticed aspects of this weekend’s box office.

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Bring out the men

Even with a female lead in Scarlett Johansson, female second lead in Florence Pugh, and female director in Cate Shortland, the domestic audience was an estimated 58 percent male. 

That’s unusual for a female-led action film, which usually attract majority female audiences on opening weekend. Examples include Wonder Woman (52 percent female), Wonder Woman 1984 (51 percent), Peppermint (56 percent), 2016’s all-female Ghostbusters reboot (56 percent), and Ocean’s 8 (69 percent).

Perhaps it’s something about Marvel. The opening weekend audience for MCU’s other solo-female film, Captain Marvel, was 55 percent male.

The weekend overall

Total box office this weekend came in around $117.0M, the biggest of the “pandemic-and-post-pandemic” era to date.

Previously, the largest such frame was the $98.6M total from a few weeks ago on June 25-27, when Universal’s action sequel F9 premiered with $70.0M.

For context, this weekend’s box office total was higher than any of the last three February and March 2020 weekends before Covid-19 was officially declared a pandemic and most cinemas shut down.

Those three frames totalled $102.5M, $97.3M, and $100.7M, led by Sonic the Hedgehog, The Invisible Man, and Onward, respectively. 

The studio race

Heading into this weekend, Disney ranked fourth in 2021 domestic theatrical revenue with $133.1M, behind Warner Bros. with $331.6M, Universal with $258.4M, and Paramount with $148.1M.

Now Disney jumped one rank to third place with $215.8M, and appears likely to reach second place either later this week or next weekend.

For context, Disney led the year-end domestic box office for each of the last four pre-pandemic years, 2016 through 2019. The last non-pandemic year when they didn’t claim the box office crown was 2015, finishing second behind Universal.

First place still seems beyond reach, at least solely on the strength of Black Widow, especially with Warner Bros. padding their lead further with Space Jam: A New Legacy premiering on Friday.

Other movies this weekend actually held decently

Usually when a major new blockbuster enters theaters, everything else still playing in cinemas takes a corresponding hit. Defying the odds, both current releases in their sophomore frames this weekend were sequels that actually experienced milder declines than their predecessors did on their equivalent weekends.

Universal’s animated The Boss Baby: Family Business fell -44.5 percent, a bit less than the -47.4 percent drop of 2017’s original The Boss Baby.

Meanwhile, horror sequel The Forever Purge declined -43.0 percent, the lowest of the franchise’s five installments to date. In release date order, The Purge plunged -75.5 percent, The Purge: Anarchy was -64.8 percent, The Purge: Election Year was -60.6 percent, and The First Purge was -46.4 percent.

Biggest film of the year?

Will Black Widow become the domestic box office’s highest-grossing title released in 2021?

It’s certain to overtake the two current leaders, A Quiet Place Part II ($150.8M so far) and F9 ($141.8M so far), likely sometime around next weekend.

Looking ahead at the release schedule for the remaining months of the year, mid-December’s Spider-Man: No Way Home could potentially take in more if including its earnings into January and February 2022, but seems unlikely to actually dethrone Black Widow by midnight on December 31.

No Time to Die looks guaranteed to be a blockbuster, but every previous “Daniel Craig as James Bond” installment ended as one of the year’s top 10 films, but not quite #1. Casino Royale was the #9 domestic film from 2006, Quantum of Solace was also #9 from 2009, Skyfall was #4 from 2012, and Spectre was #10 from 2015.

Marvel will also release Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in September and Eternals in November, and it’s possible though unlikely that either will dethrone Black Widow at the domestic box office, given both their statuses as the first cinematic installment for their respective characters.

(The counterexample here would be the gargantuan $700.0 million domestic box office of Black Panther, which became the highest-grossing film released in 2018, earning more than that year’s Marvel sequels Avengers: Infinity War or Ant-Man and the Wasp.) 

And while the original Top Gun was the highest-grossing film released in 1986, November’s sequel Top Gun: Maverick seems unlikely to actually become the single highest-grossing title from 2021. Tom Cruise’s recent action sequels have similarly finished around “top 10 of the year but not quite #1” territory, including Mission: Impossible – Fallout (#8 from 2018 with $220.1M) and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (#11 from 2015 with $195.0M).

When all is said and done, Black Widow certainly looks like a legitimate contender to take the 2021 domestic box office crown.

Photo Credit: ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. ("Black Widow")