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After more than a year of waiting in the wings, Marvel Studios’ female superhero stand-alone Black Widow finally hit the big screen Thursday night in the U.S., collecting a huge $13.2 million to set a new pandemic-era record for previews.
The news gets better: the film grossed $39.5 million on Friday for a possible domestic bow of nearly $90 million (both are likewise pandemic-era records). That puts box office business for the tentpole close to pre-pandemic levels for the first time since the COVID-19 crisis hit. And it will be the first time that overall revenue of $125 million-plus is running ahead of the same weekend in 2019.
Black Widow is also off to a pleasing start early overseas, where it started opening Wednesday to pandemic-era best numbers, including in the U.K. and France for an opening day total of $5 million. On Thursday, it opened in another 30 markets — including Germany, Russia, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Brazil and Mexico — for a two-day total of $22.4 million.
Until now, Universal’s F9 domestic start of $70 million (including $7.1 million in Thursday sneaks) held the crown top pandemic-era opening. Both it and Black Widow are among numerous 2020 tentpoles that were delayed because of the COVID-19 crisis.
The major difference between the two: F9 is receiving an exclusive theatrical release, while Black Widow is opening day-and-date on Disney+ Premier Access for an additional $30. No one is sure how much a day-and-date model impacts box office since studios don’t reveal viewership numbers.
Further complicating matters, the box office is still in recovery mode and far from operating at normal levels in some parts of North America.
That’s likewise true overseas, where Black Widow is opening this week and weekend in most major markets, excluding areas still impacted by COVID-19 closures, including Taiwan, India, parts of Australia and some countries in Southeast Asia and Latin America. (In North America, a swath of cinemas in Canada, including Toronto, are still shuttered.) Black Widow does not yet have a release date in China, where the box office has rebounded in a major way.
Disney and Marvel are hoping for a global box office launch north of $120 million, while other analysts predict $130 million-plus. Watching Black Widow on Disney+ Premier Access is also an option in numerous international markets where the streamer is available.
Directed by Cate Shortland, the big-budget tentpole stars Scarlett Johansson in the titular role. The action-thriller follows Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow as she revisits her past. Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour also star. The movie enjoys solid reviews and earned an A- CinemaScore from audiences.
It’s been more than two years since a Marvel/Disney superhero pic (Avengers: Endgame) graced the big screen. Endgame, which was released in late April 2019, was followed in July of that year by Sony/Marvel’s Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Thursday’s preview gross or bested, or rivaled, select Marvel titles: Spider-Man: Homecoming took in $15.4 million in previews for a $117 million opening, Thor: Ragnorok ($14.5 million, $123 million), Ant-Man & the Wasp ($11.5 million, $76 million), Venom ($10 million, $80 million), to mention a few.
On Friday, the Disney/Marvel tentpole expaded into more than 4,100 theaters across North America, including a hefty number of Imax and large-format premium screens that are a haven for fanboys.
July 10, 8:20 a.m. Updated with revised estimates.
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