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SYFY WIRE Black Widow

Black Widow still spying theatrical debut to kick off MCU’s big-screen Phase 4 plans

By Benjamin Bullard
Black Widow movie

Whatever spy stories Natasha Romanoff is hiding, they’ll still be coming to light first on the big screen. Disney is reaffirming its commitment to bringing Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow to theaters as a proper Marvel tentpole film…when, that is, the COVID-19-skewed timeline is finally right.

In a quarterly earnings call today, Disney CEO Bob Chapek reportedly confirmed that Black Widow remains a priority for Marvel’s hugely anticipated return to theaters, even as other would-be Disney blockbusters like Mulan and Soul have lately found small-screen success at Disney+.

“We are still intending it to be a theatrical release,” Chapek said (via Variety), while noting that the company will be careful with its release timing. “We’re going to be watching very carefully the reopening of theaters and consumer sentiment on going back to theaters."

Originally slated to premiere in May of 2020, Black Widow was among the earliest wave of big-budget movies to be delayed (more than once) by the pandemic. The film is now set for a May 7, 2021 release.

Black Widow is expected to mark the first movie in the MCU’s much-broadened Phase 4, which charts a multi-film course involving new-to-the-screen comics characters and storylines in the wake of Thanos’ ultimate defeat in Avengers: Endgame. Phase 4 already has gotten its official start over on the TV side of things, with Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprising their MCU roles as the Scarlet Witch and Vision, respectively, in WandaVision for Disney+.

With a May release target that’s only 3 months away, today’s reports suggest that Natasha could end up hiding out a little longer — if it’s necessary. “…Chapek declined to clarify if Black Widow will release in May as planned, or if it will be delayed until the box office is less impaired,” Variety noted.

If the pandemic subsides and theaters in major cities reopen en masse, the film presumably would still be on track for its May debut. When it does arrive, Black Widow is expected to be the first Marvel movie to hit the big screen since 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. So long as Natasha shows up sometime this year, she’ll also end a theatrical dearth that saw no new MCU films through all of 2020 — the first full calendar year without a new Marvel movie since 2009.

While Black Widow is still stealthily spying a theatrical premiere, Disney has other plans for the upcoming Raya and the Last Dragon from Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Animation Studios. During Thursday’s call, Chapek reportedly confirmed the company’s commitment to giving the animated fantasy feature a simultaneous split release between both theaters and small-screen subscribers.

Raya and the Last Dragon is set to debut to both at-home and moviegoing audiences on Mar. 5. At Disney+, the film will come as a $29.99 premium purchase on top of the service’s base subscription cost.