Disney delays, including Black Widow, dampen movie theatre hopes

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Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow.
Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow.
Photo: Disney/Marvel Studios
  • Disney's Black Widow starring Scarlett Johansson has been delayed again.
  • The film will now release on 9 July simultaneously in cinemas and the streaming service Disney+.
  • Other films pushed back include Cruella, Free Guy, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and The King's Man.

Disney delayed Black Widow and multiple other superhero films and animations Tuesday, dampening hopes of a swift recovery for US movie theatres that have only just reopened after a year's pandemic-mandated closure.

Black Widow starring Scarlett Johansson had been billed as the major spring release to entice fans back to theatres, which were permitted to restart at limited capacity in Los Angeles last week and New York earlier this month.

The film was originally due for release in May 2020, before Covid struck.

It will now open on 9 July - two months later than expected - and will be simultaneously available on the Disney+ streaming platform for home viewers, at an additional cost to subscribers.

Disney, which is increasingly prioritising streaming and has experimented with different release models during the pandemic, said the move reflects "the evolving preferences of audiences" in a market "that is beginning to recover from the global pandemic".

"We will continue to employ the best options to deliver The Walt Disney Company's unparalleled storytelling to fans and families around the world," added distribution chairman Kareem Daniel in a statement.

The news comes with a blow to theatre chains that have absorbed heavy losses during a year of unprecedented closures that has also seen the traditional "window" in which new releases can only be seen on the big screen all-but obliterated.

Pixar's Italy-inspired animation Luca will now only appear on Disney+, from 18 June, while live-action Cruella featuring Emma Stone will appear on big and small screens from 28 May, the company said.

Other movie delays include Free Guy (13 August), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (3 September), The King's Man (22 December), Deep Water (14 January 2022) and Death on the Nile (11 February).

The star of Free Guy, Ryan Reynolds, announced the film's new release date in a video on Instagram.

The action-comedy was initially set for a July 2020 release but was pushed back to December 2020, then to May 2021, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In the hilarious clip, the 44-year-old says: "Hey guys! Awesome news. I know we've had a couple of hiccups, but this time it's a hundred percent locked in. I've never been so sure of anything in my life as long as I live."

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