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‘Black Widow’ reportedly lost $600 million due to piracy

By Kara Santos Published Jan 06, 2022 2:37 pm

Marvel’s Black Widow starring Scarlett Johansson reportedly lost at least $600 million in potential revenue due to its release on Disney Plus on the same day as theaters.

The film’s release as a Premier Access option on Disney's streaming service caused a major pirating issue, with reports that Black Widow was pirated by more than 20 million viewers. Several piracy websites made the film immediately accessible and available in different languages worldwide.

In 2021, Black Widow kickstarted MCU’s Phase 4 films and was expected to rake in massive profits for Marvel/Disney. Despite being one of the highest earning films since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the restrictions for cinemas and rampant piracy caused the film to just perform average in terms of box office returns.

In a detailed analysis, Deadline shared the 30-day home viewership of movies including Black Widow on Disney Plus and other tentpole films on other streaming services from third party data corp Samba TV in comparison to their domestic box office earnings.

According to the report: "Following Black Widow, it was clear that day-and-date leads to a freefall at the box office in the subsequent weekend of a Marvel Cinematic Universe title; the Scarlett Johansson movie weathered the worst second-weekend drop for a Disney-distributed Marvel movie at 68 percent. The crimping in windows, which of course impacted the star's bonus, led to the twice-Oscar-nominated actress suing Disney and settling for a reported $40M+.

"Adding to the further erosion of box office for any theatrical-day-and-date release on streaming is the fact that these movies are pirated promptly, with clean 4K copies in several languages spread around the world. By the end of August, sources in the know informed us that Black Widow had been pirated more than 20M times. That's close to a $600M estimated loss on Black Widow in Disney Plus PVOD revenue alone," the report added.

According to the website TorrentFreak, Black Widow was the most pirated movie in its opening week in July 2021.

Actress Scarlett Johansson initially filed a breach of contract lawsuit over the star’s payday and streaming release plan of Black Widow, but eventually settled with Disney last year. 

New reports show that as executive producer, Johansson lost out on even more financial benefits from the piracy. Analysts point out that the film would have made a lot more money at the US box office had they released the film exclusively in theaters.

Disney previously reported that Black Widow broke several pandemic box office records. The film’s opening weekend earned $226.2 million globally, which included $80.4 million domestic box office, $78.8 million international box office, and $67 million in Disney Plus Premier Access global revenue. 

Black Widow was only screened in theaters in the Philippines on Nov. 17, four months after its international release in cinemas and on  Disney Plus which is currently still not available in the country.