Disney Plus's Staggering Haul Ups the Streaming Game

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the streaming era, in which technology platforms are shifting the economics of premium content, just got a new benchmark. Black Widow, the oft-delayed holdover from the Avengers storyline, crushed the pandemic box office by bringing in $80 million in theaters. But far more impressive, it took $60 million in Disney Plus Premiere Access sales.

Realistically, this is a fraction of what the movie would have made in normal times. My sons are Marvel geeks and were psyched to see it; we spent $30 to watch it at home but would have happily spent $50 to see it in a theater if we’d had no other choice. And by my amateur estimation, Black Widow is one of the best character-vehicle films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; it’s up there with Iron Man and Doctor Strange, better than Captain America, not quite as good as Black Panther. (Always bet on “Black” if you’re Disney, apparently.)

Why is this important?

Marvel movies are the definition of the box-office draw; if anything, the criticism is that these action movies are taking over the cinematic experience. So it took a global pandemic for us to see what kind of value the Marvel/Avengers brand could deliver on a direct-to-consumer platform.

The lesson here? Well for Disney, probably that it’s worth investing deeply in content franchises like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki (both of which our family is also watching). It’s also a validation of the MCU model under Kevin Feige, who I can’t imagine fumbling the franchise the way Disney did with the last three Star Wars movies.

It’s also a warning to everyone not named Disney: Up your game.

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