Marvel’s Black Window has already been through the release date ringer thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. After a one year delay from its original May 2020 premiere, the blockbuster film starring Scarlett Johansson is expected to move yet again in the coming weeks. Just 40% of American theaters are open at the moment and that doesn’t include major markets such as New York City and Los Angeles. Fellow blockbusters such as Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984 have failed to generate much box office traction and Marvel isn’t in the business of releasing movies that lose money.
“At this point, it’s almost expected that movies due out in the first half of the year will be moved yet again,” Variety reports, starting with Black Widow and Universal’s F9. Yet the decision to delay the former is made all the more difficult by Marvel’s meticulously plotted episodic storytelling.
“Marvel is now facing the downside of its carefully interwoven narrative universe,” Kendall Phillips, a professor at Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts who teaches Rhetoric of Film: Marvel Cinematic Universe, told Observer. “The upside is that fans feel the need to see every film, even if they don’t have great interest in, say, Ant-Man. The downside is that if the queue of titles gets disrupted, then the whole train can start to come apart.”
There have been rumors that Marvel may opt to deliver Black Widow in both available movie theaters and through Disney (DIS)+ Premier Access, similar to Mulan and Raya and the Last Dragon. However, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said on the company’s Thursday earnings call that the film is “still intending to be a theatrical release.” Per Variety, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige is not a fan of the hybrid release model for Marvel blockbusters.
But at the same time, Marvel is working against a ticking clock unlike its tentpole compatriots due to the MCU’s interconnected plot. Some theorize that Disney+’s upcoming Marvel series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier could be connected to Black Widow, which takes place shortly after Captain America: Civil War. Florence Pugh, who will make her MCU debut in Black Widow, has already been cast in Disney+’s Hawkeye, due out later this year. For the sake of Marvel’s continued narrative, the movie will need to arrive in some for or another relatively soon.
There’s also the issue of the remaining MCU films on the schedule. Delaying Black Widow would likely once again result in additional delays for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (July 9) and Eternals (November 5).
“Marvel is facing a very difficult set of choices while it watches hundreds of millions of dollars of product sitting on a shelf and running the risk of audiences losing interest,” Phillips said. “It seems they will at some point be forced to either bite the bullet and release one of their big pictures on Disney+, or to start re-editing to shift points of connection. Or, they can just wait the whole thing out.”