Disney delays including ‘Black Widow’ dampen movie theater hopes
Published: Mar 24, 2021 07:58 PM
Disney delayed Black Widow and multiple other superhero films and animated films Tuesday, dampening hopes of a swift recovery for US movie theaters that have only just reopened after a year's pandemic-mandated closure.

Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow Photo: VCG

Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow Photo: VCG

Black Widow starring Scarlett Johansson had been billed as the major spring release to entice fans back to multiplexes, which were permitted to restart at limited capacity in Los Angeles last week and New York earlier in March.

It will now open on July 9 - two months later than expected - and will be simultaneously available on the Disney+ streaming platform for home viewers, at an additional cost to subscribers.

Disney, which is increasingly prioritizing streaming and has experimented with different release models during the pandemic, said the move reflects "the evolving preferences of audiences" in a market "that is beginning to recover from the global pandemic."

"We will continue to employ the best options to deliver The Walt Disney Company's unparalleled storytelling to fans and families around the world," added distribution chairman Kareem Daniel in a statement.

The news comes as a blow to theater chains which have absorbed heavy losses during a year of unprecedented closures that has also seen the traditional "window" in which new releases can only be seen on the big screen all-but obliterated.

Pixar's Italy-inspired animation Luca will now only appear on Disney+ from June 18, while live-action Cruella featuring Emma Stone will appear on big and small screens from May 28, the company said.

Black Widow was originally due for release in May 2020, before COVID-19 struck. Its latest delay meant another film in the record-breaking Marvel franchise - Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - has itself been postponed to September.

The "domino effect" is likely to affect major releases from other Hollywood studios that had been eyeing lucrative summer slots.

Despite the Los Angeles theater revival, this weekend industry watcher Exhibitor Relations warned the "reopening is still slow going at the box office."

But there was some good news for theaters Tuesday with reports that Cineworld - operator of North America's second-largest chain, Regal - struck a deal with Warner Bros to show the studio's films exclusively on the big screen for a 45-day "window" in 2022.
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