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‘Black Widow’ $80-million domestic debut is the biggest since the pandemic began

A closeup of Scarlett Johansson in costume with smoke in the background.
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff in a scene from Marvel Studio’s “Black Widow.”
(Marvel Studios)

Marvel’s “Black Widow,” the highly anticipated solo outing for veteran Avenger Natasha Romanoff, opened in first place this weekend with $80 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales.

The result is the largest North American box office opening since the pandemic began more than a year ago.

After a long road out of their COVID-19 funk, theaters are offering deals and special screenings of “Summer of Soul” and “Black Widow” to bring people back to the movies.

The strong debut is a sign of a recovery in the cinema business, although ticket sales remain well below pre-pandemic levels as theaters have stepped up efforts to lure back movie patrons.

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The film, which premiered simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ premier access, took in more than $215 million globally with more than $60 million of that revenue coming from Disney+ alone. “Black Widow” pulled in $78 million in 46 international markets.

The simultaneous streaming release — available for $30 — represents one of the biggest tests yet of consumers’ willingness to visit a theater for a movie they could watch at home.

Theaters have traditionally feared that so-called day-and-date releases would weaken box office sales, but the health crisis has forced Disney and other studios to experiment with new hybrid distribution strategies.

Disney’s disclosure is unusual because studios don’t typically report premium video-on-demand figures for film openings.

“Black Widow’s strong performance this weekend affirms our flexible distribution strategy of making franchise films available in theaters for a true cinematic experience and, as COVID concerns continue globally, providing choice to consumers who prefer to watch at home on Disney+,” Kareem Daniel, chairman of Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, said in a statement.

Directed by Cate Shortland, “Black Widow” was well received, with an A-minus CinemaScore and an 80% “fresh” rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.

“It’s incredible to see audiences enjoying ‘Black Widow’ after two years without a new Marvel Studios film,” Disney Studios Chairman Alan Bergman said in a statement. “This spectacular opening weekend shows just how eager fans have been to see this beloved Avenger in her own story.”

“Black Widow” is the only film to cross the $100-million mark in its opening weekend since the start of the pandemic.

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Universal’s “F9,” which opened to $70 million a few weeks ago, was the previous highest-grossing film in North America during the pandemic. Unlike “Black Widow,” which is playing on 4,100 screens, the ninth “Fast & Furious” movie was exclusively in theaters.

Like other big movies, the release date for “Black Widow” was delayed more than a year because of the pandemic, which kept indoor theaters closed for most of the last 12 months.

The combined theatrical and Disney+ premier access opening puts the film squarely between “Black Panther” ($202 million) and “Captain Marvel” ($153.4 million) in terms of biggest domestic opening weekend for a Marvel origin story and marks the largest domestic opening since “Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker” opened in theaters in December 2019 to $177.4 million.

Not quite an origin story, Marvel’s ‘Black Widow’ is a solo venture for the character more than 10 years in the making. Director Cate Shortland and stars Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh on why this movie couldn’t exist earlier than now.

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Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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