IMAX CEO Believes Piracy and Disney’s Split Release Ruined the Black Widow Box Office


Lately there’s been a lot of talk about the release of Marvel’s ‘Black Widow’ film. It initially performed in theaters and then it took a steep dive on the second weekend. Now IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond if joining others including, the National Association of Theatre Owners, and Scarlet Johansson, on blaming Disney’s handling of the film for the tanking box office.

During Imax’s 2021 Q2 earnings call Gelfond did address the situation with the Black Widow film and said that he believed that Disney’s release strategy to both theaters and Disney+ Premiere Access, coupled with pirating, tanked the film’s box office performance. :

There’s really no question in my mind that the combination of PVOD and a lot of piracy –people haven’t really talked about it that much– clearly, there’s a lot of piracy that accounted for the cannibalization, and it significantly affected the box office at the end of the day.

He continued discussing why theater exclusivity is important to the market:

Every studio has seen the same data that Disney has seen. What Disney did is experiment during the pandemic, which is what they said they were going to do. I remember Bob Chapek saying at one of their investor days that when times are normal, he thinks theatrical is important, exclusivity is important and I think when he looks at his data and the pandemic is in the rearview mirror that he’ll come to the same conclusion that everyone else does: The way to maximize value is to have a theatrical window.

Gelfond also discussed how traditionally the market allowed for movies to be sold to customers in a few different forms therefor generating more revenue.

“They used to sell the same property five times, and now they’re selling it once. They might be bringing some revenue forward, but there’s no proof points that it’s a better model. A lot of the same people, they will come to the same conclusion.”

As a consumer I would rather buy something once than be expected to pay for it numerous times.

I don’t love everything Disney does, but it does make is convenient when you just pay one price and your whole family can watch it from home. I’m sure it’s great for groups who pay one fee as well. However, it’s destroying the market model that many companies have spent years building up and depending on.

It does seem that one possible win-win is that theaters are doing more of a 45 day window where it’s theatrical only and then it can be released via streaming or other methods. That does give customers a shorter waiting window for digital release.

Gelfond believes that this window will apply across the board next year and that should stop this from happening then. Other movies that were to release theatrically from Disney like “Shang Chi and the Ten Rings” is still slated for exclusive theatric release later this year.

With all the push back Disney will likely stay the course and only debut movies in theaters soon.

It will be interesting to see if theatrical releases bring the numbers they once did as customers look for more ways to get out and about or if people are going to realize they didn’t need movies in theaters and rising COVID-19 Delta Variant fears stunt the market.

What do you think? Comment and let us know.


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