LOS ANGELES : Walt Disney Co on Tuesday delayed the worldwide release of Marvel Studios film Black Widow by two months until July and said it would offer the film simultaneously in theaters and for a fee on the Disney+ streaming service.

Theater operators had been hoping that Black Widow, starring Scarlett Johansson as the Russian-born spy-turned superhero, would kick off a summer blockbuster season in early May and draw crowds back to theaters after extended closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Shares of AMC Entertainment, the world's largest cinema operator, slumped 16% after an announcement.

Disney also said it would offer live-action film Cruella for a fee to Disney+ customers on the same day it hits cinemas, which is scheduled for May 28, and that Pixar animated film Luca would skip most theaters and debut to all Disney+ subscribers on June 18.

The Pixar film will play in theaters only in international markets that do not yet have access to Disney+. The service is available in much of of the world but has just begun rolling out in Asia.

Cruella and Black Widow will cost Disney+ customers an additional $30 each to stream at home.

Today's announcement reflects our focus on providing consumer choice and serving the evolving preferences of audiences,'' Kareen Daniel, chairman of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, said in a statement.

The company delayed a handful of other films, including Marvel's Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which is set to reach cinemas on September 3 instead of July 9.

Movie theaters executives had been encouraged by recent cinema reopenings in Los Angeles and New York City, the two biggest moviegoing markets in the United States, and an increase in vaccinations across the country.

But Disney's changes are likely to dent box office sales during the summer as some moviegoers opt to watch Black Widow or Cruella at home, and in most cases will not have a chance to see the latest Pixar film on the big screen. [Reuters]


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