Black Widow‘s release was pushed back to July 2021 from May 2020 as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, making it one of the summer’s most anticipated movies. The latest Marvel film will also be released on Disney+ Premier Access for a one-time fee of $30 on the same day it’s released in theaters.
According to The Wall Street Journal, theater owners want to secure better terms from Disney, such as a higher share of box-office revenue or a chance to show Black Widow exclusively due to the release decision. However, the ability to fight the company might be undercut by the need to bring moviegoers back into theater seats after long closures and limited capacities.
AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. Chief Executive Adam Aron spoke out in regard to the Disney+ release of Black Widow, “We haven’t made any threats [but] it is widely known that AMC has threatened not to play movies if we could not find business terms that we found acceptable.”
Aron is referring to when AMC Theatres refused to show Universal films in the wake of the on-demand release of Trolls: World Tour last year, stating that “This policy is not aimed solely at Universal out of pique or to be punitive in any way, it also extends to any movie maker who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us, so that they as distributor and we as exhibitor both benefit and neither are hurt from such changes.” This led to a multi-year deal between the two parties, including AMC Theatres receiving a percentage of revenues from digital releases.
These tensions highlight the changing dynamics between film studios and theaters as the COVID-19 pandemic pushed some cinema chains into bankruptcy, and as consumers and studios turned to streaming entertainment at home. Disney+ has recently reached the milestone of 100 million subscribers, and the number will keep growing as more content is added to the streaming platform.