Saturday Update: Disney’s official Friday estimate for Black Widow clocked in at $39.5 million, lining up with previous projections and keeping the first MCU film in two years on pace for a pandemic record debut frame north of $80 million.
Widow‘s first day not only topped the $33.725 million of Ant-Man and the Wasp mentioned earlier in this weekend report, it represents the 10th highest opening day gross in the history of all July releases. The film opened slightly ahead of Spider-Man: Far From Home‘s $39.26 million first day (although that was a Tuesday two years ago) and just under Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ($44.2 million on a Wednesday in July 2007).
Narrowing weekend projections suggest Widow is likely to exceed $85 million domestically by Sunday’s end, with more optimistic models hinting it still has a shot at as much as $95 million.
We’ll have further updates with Disney’s official weekend estimates, plus a full global report, on Sunday.
Friday Update: Disney reports this morning that Marvel Studios’ Black Widow rang up $13.2 million from Thursday night’s previews beginning at 5pm across North America, setting a new pandemic era benchmark. The previous best was F9 two weeks ago with $7.1 million, which proceeded A Quiet Place Part II‘s $4.8 million in late May.
All comparisons (even to recent releases like those mentioned above) come with a variety of caveats as the market and audience sentiment continue to evolve at a rapid pace during this theatrical recovery period. With that qualifier in mind, Widow is thus far performing right in the middle of Ant-Man and the Wasp‘s $11.5 million Thursday start in July 2018 and Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s $15.4 million in July 2017. Other notable comic book comps include Wonder Woman ($11.0 million) and Doctor Strange ($9.4 million).
Of that group, the former two MCU chapters are the most relevant given the near-identical calendar alignment with Widow‘s release. Ant-Man and the Wasp may have made its Thursday night shows slightly inflated by the fact it was July 5, a day when many were off work in recognition of the Fourth of July in the United States. That film went on to earn 2.9 times its Thursday result for an overall “Friday” opening day of $33.725 million, while Homecoming multiplied out 3.3 times its preview gross for an opening day of $50.78 million.
Notably, Spider-Man: Far from Home is omitted as it opened mid-week in July 2019 and only held midnight showings on Monday night/Tuesday morning.
While the trend of Marvel opening nights has potentially become more front-loaded in the three and four years since then, it remains a four-quadrant franchise in a market that’s still susceptible to variances in trends among the masses.
Following the math, here’s how Black Widow would theoretically play out this weekend based on the franchise’s recently applicable July openers (where Friday includes Thursday night grosses):
Ant-Man and the Wasp comparison: $38.7 million / $87 million weekend
Spider-Man: Homecoming comparison: $43.5 million / $100.3 million weekend
Each of these figures aligns with pre-release forecasts as Thursday night’s early returns tentatively suggest a debut close to that range. We’ll have more domestic updates as the studio reports throughout today and the rest of the weekend.
Internationally, Black Widow debuted in another 30 markets yesterday, including Germany, Russia, Australia, Japan, Korea, Brazil, and Mexico. With 41 total markets open, the first two days of overseas play have generated $22.4 million. Friday will see the addition of Spain, Poland, and Turkey to the film’s footprint. Disney will provide further international updates on Sunday.
Thursday Forecast: After 737 days, Marvel fans will be filling up movie theaters again this weekend with the domestic release of Black Widow.
Never before has such a long gap — amounting to just over two years since Spider-Man: Far From Home‘s July 2, 2019 debut — occurred between Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Granted, fans have been able to enjoy three streaming series this year in the form of WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki, but this return to the literal cinematic experience has been long awaited since the pandemic forced Widow‘s multiple delays over the past year.
Previous long range forecasts have already analyzed the key points in play for Widow‘s debut this weekend, the vast majority of which remain the status quo as opening weekend finally arrives and pent-up demand is expected to bring more good news for theater owners. The unsurpassed goodwill of this franchise should bring out die hard and casual fans alike in the days (and weeks) ahead, but its hybrid release pattern complicates typical forecasting models.
In this current climate of day-and-date releases, there has never been as high-profile of a blockbuster tentpole to release in theaters on the same day its made available for a premium charge ($30) to at-home streaming subscribers. Black Widow, for the time being at least, is truly one-of-a-kind.
As such, expectations are covering the gamut with a blend of caution and optimism. This is the first film to legitimately deserve consideration of whether or not a $100 million opening weekend is achievable during the pandemic era recovery process, but that is by no means a definitive marker of what will make it a success.
In play right now: approximately 80 percent of domestic theaters are open, with many of Canada’s venues still shuttered. Studio sources report the current operating footprint translates to roughly 95 percent of the domestic box office grossing power in pre-pandemic times.
Audience sentiment and prioritization of returning to cinemas during a summer filled with outdoor activities missed out on last year remain crucial factors in box office projections as well. Although F9 didn’t fall far short of pre-pandemic forecasts when it reached $70 million in its first weekend, NRG (via Deadline) indicates 76 percent of surveyed consumers are comfortable returning to theaters right now. This lines up with trends and box office patterns seen throughout most of the recovery period so far this summer, and further emphasizes the long-held expectation that not everyone would come back overnight.
Still, that figure is trending upward and offers encouragement with each passing week as more and more high-profile content releases. Black Widow is exactly that: a four-quadrant franchise picture that should play a significant role in bringing back moviegoers who have yet to make their return to cinemas, perhaps not even for films like A Quiet Place Part II and F9. The hybrid streaming release complicates that possibility, of course, but (like those aforementioned movies) this is an event-level film designed to be seen in theaters — and its core audience is attracted to that aspect. After all, the MCU wouldn’t be where it is today without the theatrical experience.
Thursday night’s previews begin at 5pm as Disney is distributing the movie in 4,160 theaters including 375 IMAX venues, 800-plus Premium Large Format screens, 1,500 3D locations, and 275 specialty D-Box/4D/ScreenX auditoriums. Fandango reported this week that the film is the top-selling advance ticket title of 2021 so far, and as noted in our prior forecasts, critical reviews suggest it’s going to be another Marvel crowd-pleaser.
For another numbers dive via The Boxoffice Company’s Showtimes Dashboard, Widow is currently booked for 141,462 showtimes from a sampling of 3,353 domestic theaters this weekend. By comparison, F9 was booked for 131,599 at a 3,689 location sampling on its opening weekend.
Internationally, Black Widow is off and running in 11 markets entering Thursday with a sum of $4.9 million. That includes $1.7 million from the United Kingdom (in line with the first days of Fast 9 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier) despite 26 million viewers watching the Euro semifinals between England and Denmark amid an exhibition space that’s 85 percent open with 50 percent capacity restrictions. France also generated $1.6 million with all cinemas open and no restrictions, opening 21 percent ahead of Ant-Man and the Wasp. In both countries, Widow scored the highest opening day of the pandemic era.
Back on the domestic front, internal forecasting models have consistently pinpointed this to out-track any release since December 2019, and that’s coming to fruition. Widow is currently accelerating well-past the Thursday night sales demand for F9, although the latter is historically driven by late ticket purchases and walk-up business to a greater degree than Marvel preview shows have been in recent years.
On the other side of that coin, Marvel’s younger and family audiences could drive strong weekend sales as the frame progresses. The caveat there: that’s an audience which hasn’t yet returned to theaters at the same pace as older teens and adults under 40.
Among the MCU itself, Natasha Romanoff’s first solo film is comparing favorably with other films in the franchise like Ant-Man and the Wasp and Doctor Strange on both the pre-sales and social fronts. Online chatter is peaking right now as Disney has leveraged a massive marketing campaign for what is arguably its biggest piece of content to release since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in December 2019.
Again, though, this all must be digested with the context that some Disney+ subscribers may opt to stream the film at home this weekend for one reason or another — a factor Paramount and Universal didn’t face with the Quiet Place and Fast sequels earlier this summer, and certainly one that has never applied to a major Marvel movie.
Bottom Line: As MCU films go, 19 out of 23 have opened north of $75 million at the domestic box office and 12 have exceeded the $100 million mark. Even with a number of caveats and asterisks in play for Black Widow relative to all of those films, the current stage of domestic theatrical recovery is healthy enough to warrant expectations of a debut close to that range.
Even if Widow could achieve more with a pure theatrical release, another pandemic-era record opening is within sight this weekend as Disney and Marvel kick-start the second half of 2021 with one of this year’s (not to mention 2020’s) most anticipated tentpoles.
Opening Weekend Range: $80 – 110 million
Domestic Total Range: $205 – 310 million
This Weekend vs. Last Weekend
Boxoffice projects this weekend’s top ten films will increase between 70 and 110 percent from last weekend’s $66.9 million top ten aggregate.
|3-Day Weekend Forecast
|Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, July 11
|% Change from Last Wknd
|Disney / Marvel Studios
|F9: The Fast Saga
|The Boss Baby: Family Business
|The Forever Purge
|A Quiet Place Part II
|Walt Disney Pictures
|The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard
|Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway
|Sony Pictures / Columbia
|In the Heights
|Warner Bros. Pictures
|The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
|Warner Bros. Pictures
All forecasts subject to change before the first confirmation of Thursday previews or Friday estimates from studios or alternative sources.
*revised upon studio confirmation of weekend location count
Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studios.
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