Studios continue to shuffle their movie slates as the pandemic continues, with Black Widow finally conceding to a simultaneous theatrical and streaming launch, and Warner Bros. prepares to ditch their HBO Max arrangement.
Disney and Marvel Studios have fought to avoid releasing Black Widow on Disney+ the same day as its theatrical release. However, The Hollywood Reporter has announced the Scarlett Johansson-led film has been delayed once more, arriving in theatres and on Disney+ Premier Access July 9. Disney+ subscribers in Canada can pay $34.99 to watch that day, and will have access to it as long as their subscription remains active.
This also bumps Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings from that date back to September 3—in theatres only, for the time being—and will still be followed by Eternals November 5. Meanwhile Cruella, the villain origin story starring Emma Stone, will debut May 28 in theatres and Disney+ Premier Access, and the animated feature Luca will now be a Disney+ exclusive on June 18.
Disney has previously released their Mulan remake and Raya and the Last Dragon via Premier Access, and put out Pixar’s Soul for all subscribers. Giving these upcoming features the same treatment suggests the company has been satisfied with the reaction so far, enough to continue using this model for the time being. Black Widow is the first Marvel Cinematic Universe feature of its Phase 4 stories, and was intended to be a major tentpole for the studio last year.
On the other side of Hollywood, Warner Bros appears to be preparing to return to theatre exclusive releases in 2022. The studio raised hackles across the industry in December when they announced their 2021 theatrical slate would debut on HBO Max the same day as theatres. Creators and theatre owners alike pushed back against the move, intended to give audiences a safe alternative for watching new movies in a pandemic.
Deadline reports Warner Bros. has now signed a deal with Cineworld to release its films exclusively in US Regal Cinemas for 45 days, and in UK Cineworld theatres for 31 days. The news comes as theatre capacities are expected to rise from 25% to 50% soon. Regal Theatres will begin reopening in time for the slightly-delayed launch of Godzilla vs Kong on April 2, ramping up for Mortal Kombat on April 16.
In doing so, Warner Bros is holding true to their original intent of a “unique one-year plan.” Hopefully the arrangement will allow theatres to begin recovering while also providing safe experiences for customers.
Currently Warner Bros’ 2022 lineup includes Matt Reeves’ The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson; the third Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them; and DCEU tentpoles The Flash and Aquaman 2. In the meantime, they will be releasing Space Jam: The New Legacy and The Suicide Squad to compete in Black Widow‘s wake this summer.