‘Black Widow’ sets sights on record pandemic opening as advanced ticket sales soar


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Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh star as Natasha and Yelena in Marvel’s “Black Widow.”

Natasha Romanoff is coming for the box office crown.

After a 14-month delay, “Black Widow” hits theaters Friday and it’s poised to capture the highest box office haul of any film released during the pandemic.

As of Wednesday, the Marvel flick is outpacing presales for “F9” and “A Quiet Place Part II” during the same period, Fandango told CNBC. It is also outperforming advanced ticket sales of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Doctor Strange,” both of which were released before the pandemic.

“Doctor Strange” went on to garner $85 million during its opening in 2016 and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” took in $117 million during its debut in 2017.

Current estimates suggest “Black Widow” will tally between $80 million and $110 million in box office receipts over the upcoming weekend. This would be a pandemic record, overtaking “F9,” which debuted with $70 million in ticket sales two weeks ago.

An opening within that range would also be on par with a number of other Marvel titles including: “Thor: The Dark World,” “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Iron Man.”

“We’ve seen several mile markers of theatrical recovery up to this point, but there’s little doubt in my mind that the most significant so far is in sight with ‘Black Widow,'” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com.

“Black Widow,” which takes place between the events of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” will also debut on Disney+ for $30 on the same day. Box office analysts are unsure how this simultaneous launch will impact its box office performance, but advanced ticketing suggests many will choose to venture out of their homes to see this feature on the big screen.

“‘Black Widow’s’ hybrid release throws a wrench into typical forecasting models as there’s never been a tentpole of this scale released in this manner, but I’m fairly confident we’ll be talking about some very special results at the box office this weekend despite the presence of a paid streaming option,” Robbins said.

After all, Marvel fans turned out in droves to make “Avengers: Endgame” the highest-grossing film in cinematic history. That is, until Disney rereleased “Avatar” during the pandemic. Disney has released a steady stream of Marvel content on its streaming service since January, but it has not had a feature film connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the big screen in two years.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, suggests that some Marvel fans will opt to see “Black Widow” in theaters first and then purchase the film on Disney+ to rewatch it at home.

“It seems that true Marvel fans will always pick the theatrical option first because that’s where they’ve had some of their most memorable and goosebump-inducing moviegoing experiences,” he said. “Watching a Marvel movie on a big screen with similarly enthusiastic fans in the communal environment of the movie theater is a truly special event and has been a long time coming for millions of fans around the globe and so all eyes will be on ‘Black Widow’s’ debut this weekend.”

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Fandango.

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