Following a report from Deadline last night, it was revealed that Disney is considering moving three of its future films – Pinocchio, Peter Pan, and Cruella – to Disney+ for release. This comes just days after Warner Bros. had announced that its upcoming blockbuster, Wonder Woman 1984, would be releasing day and date on its new streaming service, HBO Max, on Christmas Day. Understandably, this led to chatter on social media regarding the potential digital release of Disney’s own female-led superhero blockbuster, Black Widow which has experienced similar delays since theaters shut down last March. According to Deadline’s report, Disney and Marvel are not currently considering releasing Black Widow on Disney+.
The questions of whether the decision to release a major blockbuster is beneficial to the company, short-sided, or fair to the creators have made the rounds on Twitter over the past two days, with many assuming that the answer is the same for both films. But this is not a ‘one size fits all’ decision.
Sure, the two movies in question are very similar and were expected to have similar box office runs before having been delayed due to COVID-19. That said, Disney+ and HBO Max are in very different places at the moment. The former has crushed expectations and soared to over 73 million subscribers in just one year, making it a legitimate contender in the Streaming Wars. The latter, which was launched this past May, has yet to see that kind of success, with only 12.7 million active subscribers.
At the moment, a major blockbuster would have a much greater impact on HBO Max than it would on Disney+, where it’s likely that the majority of consumers that would subscribe specifically for Black Widow, are already subscribed to the service. While AT&T is willing to sacrifice WW84‘s box office to build a solid subscriber foundation for HBO Max, Disney doesn’t feel that sacrifice would pay the same dividends for a service that’s already captured a large percentage of the film’s target market.
According to reports, there is some concern within Warner Bros. that once WW84 is released on streaming, it will be difficult to transition the franchise back to theaters. Alternatively, fans of Wonder Woman also worry that if the film doesn’t lead to a big enough subscriber spike for HBO Max, it will hurt the chances of a potential sequel. But neither of these scenarios hold much water. Despite the current circumstances, this is still a billion-dollar franchise with an A-List lead. While its predecessor earned $412.5M domestically and a total of $821.8M worldwide, WW84 was expected to potentially set the opening weekend record for a female-led film and surpass the $1 billion mark at the box office in 2020. Wonder Woman will still be one of the most popular franchises in Hollywood when this is all said and done and fans will be yearning to see her back on the big screen, where she belongs.
In the meantime, fans can subscribe to HBO Max to support the film and enjoy it in the comfort of their living rooms on Christmas Day. In the current scenario, it’s almost more fitting to compare WW84 to Disney’s The Mandalorian, as – while the two take place in different mediums – the former will be expected to kick start HBO Max the way the latter did for Disney+ back in October of last year.