LOS ANGELES • Walt Disney on Tuesday delayed the worldwide release of Marvel Studios film Black Widow by two months until July, as it said it would offer the movie simultaneously in cinemas and for a fee on the Disney+ streaming service.
Theatre operators had been hoping that Black Widow, starring Scarlett Johansson as the Russia-born spy-turned-superhero, would kick off a summer blockbuster season in early May and draw crowds back to theatres after extended closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Disney also said it would offer live-action movie Cruella, starring Emma Stone as the titular character, for a fee to Disney+ customers on the same day it hits cinemas, which is scheduled for May 28.
It added that Pixar animated movie Luca would skip most theatres and debut to all Disney+ subscribers on June 18.
The film will play in cinemas only in international markets that do not yet have access to Disney+. The service is available in much of the world, but has just begun rolling out in Asia.
Cruella and Black Widow will cost Disney+ customers an additional US$30 (S$40) each to stream at home.
“Today’s announcement reflects our focus on providing consumer choice and serving the evolving preferences of audiences,” Mr Kareem Daniel, chairman of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, said in a statement.
The company delayed a handful of other films, including Marvel film Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, which is now set to reach cinemas on Sept 3 instead of July 9.
American movie theatre executives had been encouraged by recent cinema reopenings in Los Angeles and New York City, the two biggest movie-going markets in the United States, and an increase in vaccinations across the country.
But Disney’s changes are likely to dent box-office sales during the summer as some moviegoers opt to watch Black Widow or Cruella at home and, in most cases, will not have a chance to see the latest Pixar film in theatres.
The next big-budget action movie on theatres’ summer schedule is F9, the Fast & Furious movie from Comcast’s Universal Pictures, on June 25.
The shifts are among several changes Hollywood studios have tested during the pandemic.
AT&T’s Warner Bros is offering all of its theatrical films this year on the HBO Max streaming service on the same day.
On Tuesday, Cineworld announced that Warner Bros had agreed to a more traditional release pattern next year of showing movies only in theatres for a time, though the exclusive window will be cut down to as short as 31 days in Britain and 45 days in the US.