Cinemas say Disney damages income movies can earn with same day-and-date digital release

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Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow.
Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow.
Photo: Disney/Marvel
  • The so-called "same day-and-date" release on digital video streaming as in cinemas is doing a disservice to the entire global film industry.
  • In a strongly-worded statement, America's influential National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) noted how the industry is losing out on millions in revenue.
  • While Black Widow received good reviews and did well in its first week in cinemas, it suddenly showed a massive drop from just the second week in the United States.


The so-called "same day-and-date" release on digital video streaming as in cinemas, like what Marvel Studios and Disney have done with Black Widow, is doing a massive disservice to the entire global film industry—causing everyone in the value chain from actors and crew to producers and studios, as well as distributors and cinemas, to lose millions in revenue.

So says America's influential National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) in a strongly-worded statement, noting that new calculations are indicative of how Disney is damaging the entire cinema industry and losing out on millions in revenue. Black Widow is its latest same day-and-date cinema and subscription-video-on-demand (SVOD) release on Disney+.

While South African cinemas, shuttered because of an adjusted Lockdown 4, had to push out the premiere date of Marvel Studios Black Widow, many South Africans have already remarked that they have seen it - likely through online piracy such as using torrents and illegally downloading pristine digital copies.

READ MORE | SA cinemas desperately need movie fans back as the pandemic delivers yet another devastating blow to the industry

This represents money lost to Disney in South Africa, distributors and cinema chains like Ster-Kinekor and Nu Metro, but it is a scenario that is also playing out in America and across the rest of the world where the exclusive cinema window has collapsed. 

While Black Widow received good reviews and did well in its first week in cinemas, it suddenly showed a massive drop from just the second week in the United States – something unheard of for the cinema-widow run of an above-average film.

"Black Widow's excellent reviews, positive word of mouth, strong previews and opening day total led to a surprising 41% second-day drop, a weaker than expected opening weekend, and a stunning second-weekend collapse in theatrical revenues. Why did such a well-made, well-received, highly anticipated movie underperform?" asks NATO.

"Despite assertions that this pandemic-era improvised release strategy was a success for Disney and the simultaneous release model, it demonstrates that an exclusive theatrical release means more revenue for all stakeholders in every cycle of the movie's life," says NATO.

"Combined with the lost theatrical revenue and forgone traditional PVOD revenue, the answer to these questions will show that simultaneous release costs Disney money in revenue per viewer over the life of the film."

"Piracy no doubt further affected Black Widow's performance, and will affect its future performance in international markets where it has yet to open," says NATO.

"Pristine digital copies became available within minutes of release on Disney+. Black Widow was the most torrented movie for the week ending 12 July, according to TorrentFreak numbers. It is also available on myriad illegal streaming sites all over the internet.

"This was also the case for all simultaneous releases (Wonder Woman 1984, Godzilla vs Kong, Cruella, Mortal Kombat). This did not happen for F9 or A Quiet Place 2. How much money did everyone lose to simultaneous release and piracy?" NATO asks.

"The many questions raised by Disney's limited release of streaming data opening weekend are being rapidly answered by Black Widow's disappointing and anomalous performance. The most important answer is that simultaneous release is a pandemic-era artefact that should be left to history with the pandemic itself."

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