Black Widow releases: Why MCU film is not available on Disney+ Hotstar in India

Scarlett Johansson’s Marvel Cinematic Universe outing Black Widow releases on Friday, July 9 in North America and several other territories. Disney will also release the film on its streaming service Disney+ as well under its Premiere Access (a premiere video on demand service) section for $30 on the same date.

We Indians, however, will have to wait a bit longer — maybe months — to witness Natasha Romanoff in action as she confronts the demons of her past. The film was supposed to release in Indian theatres as the same time as the rest of the world but the devastating second wave and ensuing restrictions have put paid to that. However, why the House of Mouse will not make the movie available for Disney+ users in India is not clear while it is expected to release on October 8 internationally on Disney+.

Disney first chose the Premiere Access model for Mulan last year, which was a live-action remake of the 1998 animated movie of the same name.

Mulan was not released in theatres at all as the coronavirus pandemic raged on, and the studio relegated it to Disney+. Then, Kelly Marie Tran-led Raya and the Last Dragon was unveiled as a hybrid release — to be released both in cinema halls and on streaming. After the apparent success, it was revealed that Cruella, Black Widow, and Jungle Cruise would also follow the model. So far, these movies are the only Premiere Access releases we know of so far.

These decisions were no doubt driven by a huge move on part of a rival studio. Warner Bros made waves across the the world of entertainment late last year when it announced that its every 2021 movie would release in theatres and on HBO Max on the same day, with reactions ranging from disbelief and excitement. Noted filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, a longtime collaborator, decried the move, while others said it was the need of the hour.

All the Premiere Access movies are made available for free by Disney after a few months. And that is the day Disney+ Hotstar releases them on India. For instance, Mulan became free of cost on December 4, and the movie released in India on Disney+ Hotstar.

So even if Black Widow was releasing in India on July 9, we would still have had to wait for a couple more months to watch in the comfort of our homes as there is no feature like Premiere Access in India’s version of Disney+.

We do not know why Disney has not extended Premiere Access to India. Perhaps the thinking is users will not agree to pay a premium for a movie they are going to watch in their homes. But Zack Snyder’s Justice League was watched by over 100,000 people on BookMyShow Stream. This is not including other platforms like Hungama Play. And Like ZSJL, Black Widow is a huge IP, and likely would have sold well.

Disney and Marvel Studio’ reason might also be that they want more and more people to watch it on the big screen, preferably IMAX. Like other MCU movies, Black Widow is tailor-made to be enjoyed in theatres.

The promos only drive home the point. The movie’s trailers boast stunning CGI visuals and action scenes that are best witnessed in a theatre, and even Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige and others have made it clear that the film, unlike Disney+ MCU shows like WandaVision and Loki, was made while keeping the big screen and accompanying sound effects in mind.

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