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This past weekend, Disney and Marvel released “Black Widow” starring Scarlett Johansson — and both here and abroad, folks plunked down cash en masse to take it in. (Credit: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons)

“Women-led films aren’t money-makers!” “Streaming services will signal the end of movie theater attendance!”

Consider both of those myths thoroughly debunked. This past weekend, Disney and Marvel released “Black Widow,” the studios’ first joint film offering since 2019 — and both here and abroad, folks plunked down cash en masse to take it in.

First, it was a pandemic record-breaker in theaters, making $80 million in box-office sales in the U.S. alone, as well as $78 million from movie-goers in 46 other countries. But in addition to heading out in hordes to catch the film, plenty of others opted to stay home and rent “Black Widow” instead, resulting in another $60 million made worldwide.

The grand total? Roughly $158 million. 

It’s especially notable since “Black Widow” not only stars a woman — actress Scarlett Johansson, who has played the titular character since her first Marvel Cinematic Universe appearance in 2010’s “Iron Man 2” — but was directed by one as well. Australian film and TV director Cate Shortland stood at the helm of the blockbuster movie. And sexism seemingly informed earlier decisions to forego a “Black Widow” feature film before now. 

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Then again, Johansson has fielded a considerable amount of sexism throughout her time portraying spy-turned-superhero Natasha Romanoff — from her very first moments on screen and on through more than a decade of offensive questions her male co-stars never faced. 

Of course, now that the box office results are in — and the money continues to flow — executives are touting “Black Widow” as emblematic of the enduring power of feature films, wherever they’re viewed. 

“‘Black Widow’s’ strong performance this weekend affirms our flexible distribution strategy of making franchise films available in theaters for a true cinematic experience and, as Covid concerns continue globally, providing choice to consumers who prefer to watch at home on Disney+,” Kareem Daniel, Disney’s media and entertainment distribution chairman, told Variety.

Yes, the success of “Black Widow” is absolutely indicative of movie-goers’ eagerness to return to theaters as vaccines continue to roll out, as well as their overall enjoyment of a big summer blockbuster. But it’s also worth noting that the second-place pandemic release — the latest installment in the increasingly fantastical “Fast & Furious” franchise, which has its own passionate fanbase — was handily bested by “Black Widow” less than one month later.

So let’s be sure to celebrate the film-making — and money-making — power creative women have, while we’re at it.

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Editor’s Note: The Story Exchange is celebrating its 10th anniversary by launching the annual Women In Science Incentive Prize. Apply now for a chance to receive $5,000 in funding for your climate-related research or startup. Deadline: July 31. 

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Sally Murphy Well Told
A Life Changing Event Led To Her Entrepreneurial Journey

Sally Murphy is the founder of Well Told, a communications consulting firm helping businesses tell better stories.

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