'Black Widow' Smashes Pandemic Box Office Records With The Biggest Opening Since 'Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker'

Consider Black Widow a win for the pandemic box office, movie theaters, and (possibly) some sort of studio transparency in the Wild West of this new streaming age. After countless delays and shifting release dates, the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe finally swung into theaters this weekend and fully stuck the landing in that trademark Natasha Romanoff superhero pose.

Variety has the numbers to prove that nothing, not even a pandemic, is a match for the MCU. Director Cate Shortland's Black Widow, starring Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh, hauled in $80 million this weekend, supplanting last week's F9 performance and vaulting Marvel's action flick to the top of the charts in the second consecutive weekend featuring a movie setting a new pandemic record. It's the largest domestic opening since Disney/Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opened in December 2019.

If you're curious about a comparison to the Before Times, Spider-Man: Far From Home was the MCU's previous theatrical release in 2019 and opened to a staggering $185 million debut. And also for comparison's sake, Captain Marvel dropped that same year as well to the opening weekend tune of $153 million.

Obviously, the pandemic has completely upended our expectations and standards for releases these days, so Black Widow's $80 million domestic and $158 worldwide are hardly anything to dismiss.

The Disney+ Wrinkle

Of course, the pandemic has also forced studios to adapt with the times. At the behest of AT&T, Warner Bros. (in)famously shook up the industry by announcing its plan to release its catalogue of films both in theaters and on streaming service HBO Max simultaneously. In a similarly unexpected change from the standard operating procedure thus far, Disney has finally released numbers for Black Widow's Premier Access charge on Disney+ and combined them with the total weekend tally to paint a slightly more optimistic picture. In a notable deviation from box office numbers (which studios split with theaters), Disney gets to keep 100% of its Disney+ profits.

Touting these numbers as "consumer spend globally", a hilariously corporate term that just rolls off the tongue, Black Widow apparently gained an additional $60 million through Disney+ rentals which are currently set at $30 a pop. Many in the industry consider this number-pushing as gamesmanship, allowing Disney to claim a larger piece of the box office pie for PR purposes while the rest of us are left to take the studio at their word. It's worth noting that Black Widow likely would've made more without making Premier Access an option, which allows families of three or more to save considerable money that otherwise would've gone to ticket sales (and concessions, which tend to be the livelihood for theaters). It remains to be seen how Disney adjusts for their next theatrical release, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and whether Premier Access will continue to be a part of their plan.

As for the rest of the box office, F9 came in at second place with a total of $10.8 million, a precipitous drop from its opening weekend numbers but good enough for a worldwide total of $541.8 million. Universal also claims the third and fourth-place spots with Boss Baby: Family Business, at $8.7 million, and The Forever Purge with an addition $6.7 million. A Quiet Place Part II, meanwhile, rounds out the top 5 with another $3 million.