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Is the Disney+ MCU Cutting Into Marvel Studios’ Box Office?

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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever crushing the box office competition came as no surprise. However, it experienced the now-typical drop-off rate for post-pandemic Marvel Studios movies. Are the grosses for these Marvel Studios films also affected by how Disney+ has changed the way fans engage with these stories?

Wakanda Forever‘s second weekend continued to dominate the box office, yet it earned 60 percent less compared to the debut. This happened with all Marvel Cinematic Universe films in the past two years. The first Black Panther film also dropped, but by only 40 percent. Also, the November release window is increasingly favorable to comic book fare, with Joker at the apex. Nonetheless, the global box office totals are still nowhere near the record levels of 2018 or 2019. The MCU brings out the fans, it just doesn’t keep them coming back like it used to. Perhaps, they’re home watching Disney+. The quick turnaround for these movies from theaters to Disney+ makes the wait to watch Wakanda Forever again a little more bearable.

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New Marvel Studios’ Releases Are Less ‘Special’ Than They Used To Be

Loki making peace with Thor at the end of Thor: Ragnarok

Even with its impossibly fast production pace, Marvel Studios released at most three movies per calendar year. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, the studio dropped three titles per year. All those releases came within six months of the former, sometimes less. The lone exception was the seven months between Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel. The big screen releases are back to that level of frequency. However, there are now the Disney+ projects as well. There are the Marvel Studios Specials, shorter feature films. And the TV series are cinematic quality and, at least, twice the amount of story fans get in the movies.

Putting aside the shows, one reason people see MCU movies over and over again is to catch Easter eggs and examine theories. However, fans can go see the films and, to really dissect it, they can just wait two months until it shows up on the streamer. Not only that, then they can pause and rewind to their hearts’ content. Rather than going to see Black Panther: Wakanda Forever 10 times in theaters, fans will go a few times and then wait a few weeks until it debuts on Disney+.

Disney+ is also the first place to collect all the MCU films and shows in one place. Even the canon-adjacent like the Netflix shows, Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are “up there” next to the big-screen Avengers. Stories old and new make Disney+ feel like the front row to the Marvel Studios more so than the movie house.

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Marvel Studios’ Movies Are a Peak Communal Cinematic Experience

Heroes appear through portals to aid Captain America in Avengers: Endgame

For as much as acclaimed directors like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino criticize Marvel Studios’ offerings, they are prime examples of the importance of the theater. Iconic moments like the “Portals” scene in Endgame or the introduction of the Spider-Men in No Way Home are best shared with a crowd. People cheer, cry and shout at the screen, sharing these emotions with a room full of strangers. Until the launch of Disney+, this was the primary way that viewers engaged with the MCU.

Thanks to Disney+ and its relentless schedule, the MCU became more of an “at-home thing.” Since production ramped up after the initial COVID-19 lockdown, Marvel Studios released ten original projects directly to the streamer, not counting the Marvel Studios: Assembled making-of featurettes. Conversely, Wakanda Forever is the seventh big-screen release. The first, Black Widow, was also released to the streamer at the same time as theaters. It’s clear that Disney+ is the primary focus of Marvel Studios’ attention. That may be translating to a less robust box office than it hopes.

Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm have made the streamer a resounding success for Disney. Yet, Disney+ as the home of the MCU may have changed the way fans engage with the universe. Even if that’s true, Marvel is still the biggest collective box office game in town.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is currently in theaters and expected on Disney+ in early 2023.

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