Even as movie theaters around the United States begin to open slowly but surely, the movies that are supposed to play in them have begun another round of release-date calendar shuffling – and this time it’s Disney’s Black Widow and Soul that are next in line, as the studio has to tackle an unenviable decision: either pushing both films back by months and committing to a risky theatrical release, or putting one or both onto the Disney+ streaming service.
It’s a decision that every studio has responded to differently during this unprecedented time, and the varied results/consequences of each studio’s individual course of action makes it extremely difficult to judge what will happen no matter what Disney chooses.
Insiders at Disney report that the Marvel superhero action film Black Widow will likely be pushed back, which will necessitate the entire upcoming slate of Marvel films to be rearranged to accommodate. It’s the go-to solution for a problem that isn’t going away anytime soon: delay and hope that by the time that the new release date rolls around, the coronavirus crisis will have calmed down a little bit.
But the more times Black Widow and other films get delayed, the more it becomes glaringly obvious that the crisis isn’t calming down: Warner Brothers’ Wonder Woman 1984 recently abandoned its October 4th release date in favor of late December; and Universal has decided to wait until 2021 to release Nia DaCosta’s Candyman. The impetus for the sudden move was the mixed reaction to Warner Brothers’ Tenet, which opened overseas with fairly positive results, only to fizzle out with just $29M in North America after two weeks.
This, coupled with Warner Brothers’ decision to try and conceal Tenet’s exact box-office numbers, has understandably made Disney nervous about Black Widow‘s upcoming November 6th release date. A new date for the film has not yet been chosen, but it seems like audiences will have to wait a while longer before they can reunite with Natasha Romanoff. And theaters will have to face a long, uncertain November without a major release until No Time To Die on the 20th of that month.
Assuming Disney does go through with this, the pressure will be on Universal to keep the James Bond action film committed to that date, but every studio has a responsibility to act safely during this time and not endanger the lives of audience members: especially now, with a possible second wave of COVID-19 cases expected to hit sooner rather than later.
WHILE BLACK WIDOW WAITS IT OUT, SOUL WAVERS
Meanwhile, the Pixar animated film Soul will have to forge its own path: either following in the footsteps of Black Widow and waiting it out, or moving abruptly onto the Disney+ streaming platform, a route that is still relatively new and untested. Disney’s live-action Mulan attempted a hybrid release, with the film premiering on Disney+’s new Premier Access subsection and opening in Chinese theaters: but so far, it’s done poorly in China (where Disney was hoping it would perform well thanks to the film’s Chinese setting and name recognition amongst Chinese audiences), and we don’t have any official data about how much money its made on Disney+ Premier Access, where it was available to buy for $30.
Nevertheless, the consensus among analysts appears to be that the film has done well, but not nearly well enough. Then again, the various controversies swirling around the film both pre-release and post-release make it difficult to say whether Mulan‘s low numbers are indicative of anything. It’s also possible that, even if Soul does make the jump to streaming, it will be free to anyone with a Disney+ subscription, or the price point may change. It would become the second Pixar film this year to head to Disney+ early, following Onward, which released in theaters at the worst possible moment back in March and had to be pulled from theaters soon afterwards.
So what do you think? With the way that the situation is evolving, where do you see Black Widow and Soul ending up when all is said and done? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.