Black Widow: Disney Pulls The Movie’s Theatrical Release

March 17, 2020–Disney’s decision to pull the theatrical release of Marvel Studios’ Black Widow is the latest sign that the most successful film franchise is also uniquely vulnerable to the coronavirus epidemic’s widespread effect.

Along with “Black Widow,” Marvel Studios already suspended production of its upcoming theatrical film “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” and its upcoming Disney Plus shows “Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” “WandaVision” and “Loki.”

The entire entertainment industry has been postponing releases and halting production for many of the most anticipated titles of 2020 and 2021. But unlike every other franchise in Hollywood, the Marvel Studios titles are supposed to be creatively interconnected within a larger meta-narrative known as Phase Four.

Without 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” the inciting event of “Black Panther” — the death of T’Challa’s father — would’ve felt rushed and confusing. If audiences hadn’t had a chance to see “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Spidey’s indelible line “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good” wouldn’t have carried the same weight in “Avengers: Infinity War.”

And had “Captain Marvel” missed its debut, then the titular superhero’s appearance in “Avengers: Endgame” would’ve felt totally random.

“Black Widow” is something of a prequel, set between the events of “Civil War” and “Infinity War.” And Scarlett Johansson’s title hero dies in “Endgame,” so we already know where her story ultimately leads.

Like “Captain Marvel,” which was set in the 1990s, there are sure to be characters and events in “Black Widow” that resonate within the larger MCU.

Marvel chief Kevin Feige explicitly stated at San Diego Comic-Con last July that Marvel’s Disney Plus shows are creatively interwoven with the studio’s theatrical films — for example, the events of “WandaVision” will directly play into the upcoming feature film “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”

Planned Sequence

How the company plans to deal with rescheduling all of these titles remains unclear. “Black Widow” was due to debut on May 1, followed by “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” on Disney Plus in August, then “Eternals” in theaters on November 6, then “WandaVision” on Disney Plus in December, then “Shang-Chi” in theaters on February 12, 2021, and then “Doctor Strange 2” in theaters on May 7, 2021.

But if “Black Widow” opens after “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” debuts, does that begin to break down the sequence of events? Will “Eternals” be like the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies and stand more apart from the rest of the MCU, or was “Black Widow” and “Falcon” supposed to feed into that film?

Will “Eternals” even make its November release date if post-production also gets halted?

And if production of “Doctor Strange 2” gets postponed, how will that affect the planned “Spider-Man” sequel for 2021 co-produced by Sony and Marvel?