No one outside Disney's Burbank officers knows how much Disney actually made from the "Premier Access" release of Mulan on Disney+.
But a lot of Marvel fans, specifically those on Reddit, are expressing a willingness to see Black Widow in a very similar fashion — if that's an option. Their urgency is revealing something about the Marvel fandom after one year deprived of cinematic offerings. Disney should take note.
What Happened? — On Reddit's r/marvelstudios, a fan community of 1.3 million people who love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a thread asked a hypothetical question: If the delayed Black Widow were ever to release on Disney+, would you pay an additional fee?
$30, which is how much the "Premier Access" release of Mulan last summer cost on Disney+, was the hypothetical price for Black Widow. The movie is scheduled for a May 7 release, but there are rampant rumors of Black Widow avoiding theaters by either accepting yet another delay or surrendering to a Disney+ release, per a January 11 report from Variety.
There wasn't one unanimous answer. Many fans expressed a divided general opinion. Plenty on the Reddit forum say they are willing to wait it out until the movie is available on Disney+ for no additional cost — or on Blu-ray and DVD. Some will even wait for theaters to reopen.
But there's still plenty, and I mean plenty, of fans willing to fork over cash if it means getting to see the long-awaited Black Widow movie as soon as possible. This alone highlights an urgency in the Marvel fandom to see more Marvel movies after an unexpected "gap year" of 2020.
Cheaper Than the Theater — With 610 comments as of this writing, it doesn't take long to scroll and find enthusiastic Marvel fans saying "Yes" to Black Widow on Disney+, even with an additional fee. Some point out that the $30 fee can be split in multi-person households, reducing the individual cost even more.
“I’d pay $50 at this point.”
"Absolutely," wrote user u/patricknotswayze. (Good name). "It's cheaper than my girlfriend and I going to the theater and getting the popcorn and the drinks and the snacks like we do for all the MCU films we've seen together in theaters so far."
User u/WeirdFlexCapacitor responded to u/patricknotswayze in agreement. "I’ve easily have spent ~$40 on every MCU theater going experience. Plus you only get to watch it the once at the theater price point."
Another user, u/ThatIowanGuy, simply said: "Yes. 100%. I’d pay $50 at this point."
User u/Rtalbert235, a father of three teenagers, says the cost of a single $30 fee for Black Widow at home is more preferable than the amount of individual tickets plus snacks. "If I go to a theater, my family also goes, which is my wife, myself and three teenagers," u/Rtalbert235 explained. "With concessions included a trip to the movies almost never comes in under $100. We're way better off money-wise to pay $30 and order a bunch of pizza."
u/Rtalbert235 adds that if Black Widow were "an Endgame-level movie, I would definitely want to be in the theater with the crowds going wild." But they don't anticipate Black Widow being as big.
User u/AborsbingMan, who has the top comment on the thread, say they "don't want to" pay an extra fee but know that they will if it's an option given.
"I don’t want to," u/AbsorbingMan said. "But [the] MCU is my jam so that’s what I’ll probably end up doing." They add that if the movie is released in a theater nearby, "then I’ll just pay the $10 to see it there." (u/AbsorbingMan's comment kicks off a whole new discussion regarding local ticket prices.)
"I don’t want to admit how much I would pay to see Black Widow right now," wrote user u/bellowingbullfinches. "They have me completely hooked, and my entertainment budget isn’t being spent on anything right now because of the pandemic."
User u/Apocalyptic_Horseman wrote, "If it means there won’t be a delay then definitely." Another user, u/colglazier17 responded to u/Apocalyptic_Horseman's comment with the additional insight that the delays are having a "domino effect" on the Marvel franchise. "This is my reasoning for it too," they said.
"I understand $30 is a lot for a streamed movie for people, but these delays are having such a big impact on the whole MCU. Since they’re all connected and probably have to be watched in a certain order, one delay has a LARGE domino effect on the rest."
u/colglazier17 further adds that Black Widow isn't drumming up "hype" and that excitement for the movie is at "an all time low." "Just release it on D+ and let’s move forward. I love the character, but the more they delay it, the less people are going to be excited to see it."
We could go on; there are plenty of terse "Yes" and "Of course" and "In a heartbeat" replies. But it's equally important to acknowledge that the Marvel fandom does not a consensus, and there are just as many fans who aren't willing to pay and would rather wait for the movie.
As the "no" replies reveal, there is an inconsistent accessibility to the Disney+ platform. It is available in certain but not all territories. In certain regions, a movie ticket is still cheaper than a $30 fee plus a monthly Disney+ subscription. And yes, we're still in a pandemic, which influences individual people's willingness to risk exposure. One user, u/knotsteve, told the subreddit: "I'm in some higher-risk groups for Covid and the theatres around here are nothing special so I don't know when I'll feel like going to the cinema again."
The Inverse Analysis — A few hundred Marvel fans on a Marvel subreddit isn't going to convince the Disney corporation to release Black Widow on Disney+. The movie still has the potential to gross millions, maybe billions, as the Marvel brand proves to be relevant and attractive to audiences (given the buzz surrounding WandaVision at the moment).
But 2020 was the first year since 2009 there wasn't a new Marvel movie release. (Sorry The New Mutants, you don't count.) The recent premiere of WandaVision is satiating starving fans, but there is still a demand for high-octane action only a movie like Black Widow can deliver. While fans are thankfully not doing anything uncalled for — like protesting outside Marvel Studios — they are growing impatient.
But will Marvel give fans what they want? Disney has remained tight-lipped over the revenue it got from Mulan, so it's unknown if the studio saw a comparable income to the billions it would have made with a global theatrical release. It was always clear that Mulan was an experiment; that Disney hasn't applied the same strategy to all of its delayed movies after is telling how much the experiment didn't pay off. (Pixar's Soul went straight to streaming for no additional fee.)
Still, Mulan isn't Marvel. Is the long year and a half away from the MCU compelling enough for fans to pay $30 and a Disney+ subscription for a movie tailor-made for the theatrical experience? We'll only know if Disney ever chooses to try it out.
Black Widow will release in theaters on May 7. For now.