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Here's Why Investors Should Consider "Black Widow" a Huge Success for Disney

By Jon Quast, Toby Bordelon, and Brian Withers – Jul 22, 2021 at 8:00AM

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Adding box-office sales to streaming revenue, this movie had a huge opening.

After more than a year of waiting from the originally slated release date, Walt Disney (DIS 0.85%) finally debuted its anticipated film Black Widow on July 9. The movie's box office sales didn't impress some on Wall Street. But the movie was also simultaneously released to Disney's subscription-streaming service Disney+, generating additional sales.

In this video from Motley Fool Live, recorded on July 13, Fool contributors Jon Quast and Toby Bordelon explain to fellow contributor Brian Withers why they believe Black Widow should be considered a success for Disney.

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Brian Withers: Black Widow opened over the weekend. And this was surprising: It's the first Marvel movie in the theater in more than two years. So a long wait here. U.S. and Canada box office returns were $80 million, with another $78 million overseas over the weekend. It surpassed F9: The Fast Saga from two weeks ago as the best pandemic release in terms of opening box office ticket sales.

But not all is rosy. According to Box Office Mojo, its strong weekend paled in comparison to other Marvel hits, putting it 19th out of 24 behind Doctor Strange -- which I actually thought was a really good movie. But being No. 19, not so great. Maybe Disney had higher hopes for this, but you know what? They also debuted it on Disney+ for $30 and racked up an additional 60 million bucks for in-home viewing.

Given that it's 19th, don't like to be 19th, should Disney shareholders consider this movie a failure? How should stockholders think about this? Jon, what's your thoughts?

Jon Quast: Yeah, I would say that Black Widow was a screaming success for Disney for two reasons. First of all, not all ticket sales are created equal. So when you have the movie theater ticket sales, Disney is sharing that with whatever the movie theater operator is. It's not 100% revenue for Disney. You take $60 million coming in from the premiere access on Disney+, that is very much more correlated with revenue for Disney. So that is a lot more money coming in. I would presume it's higher margin -- I don't know that. Maybe one of you two knows that. But I would say it's a screaming success for that reason. We're having a lot more revenue attributable to Disney for this movie.

Secondly, in my opinion, Black Widow is not a A-list character in the Marvel Universe. You think about Iron Man, Spider-Man, Wolverine, these are your A-list iconic characters. Black Widow, I wouldn't put on that category. If you add in the domestic box office of $80 million plus the $60 million on Disney+, we're up at $140 million. Now, we're in the top 10 of Marvel debuts. I would call that a big screaming success.

Toby Bordelon: I think I agree with what you're saying there, Jon. Especially with you adding this up together, because you got $80 [million] domestic plus almost $80 [million] international, then the $60 [million]. What is that? 80 plus 80, 60, so it's $220 million total if you add all those up. It'd give us the domestic combined. That's pretty good for opening weekend especially in a pandemic.

I think Disney+ has a lot to do with this. I think one thing that we've seen here that it's proven that people will pay a premium over and above your normal streaming fee to see a movie like this. That's good to know. That's very good information for Disney to have for thinking the future. Like you mentioned before, they're not splitting that 50-50 with the theaters, so it's a lot more profit margin for Disney on those streaming revenues.

We went this weekend -- we did not go. We watched it in-home. We watched it actually last night. Watched Black Widow with the family on Disney+. I have concerns still about taking my kids. I have three who are under 12, so they can't get vaccinated yet. I have concerns taking them into a theater until they're vaccinated. That was the big deciding factor. How would that have played out? If my wife and I had gone into theater, it would've been a little less than what we paid for Disney+. If we'd taken the kids, it would've been a little more based on the prices that we're seeing. Who knows how other families made the same decision or people made the same calculus. If Disney+ did not exist, the box office would've been higher, I'm sure. How much higher, we don't know. But I think this is definitely a success for Disney.

Toby Bordelon owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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