The MCU has finally returned to the big screen with the release of Black Widow, but the movie cost a comparatively large $200m to make. To put that in context, Ant-Man cost somewhere between $130m and $170m, Thor: Ragnarok cost $180m and Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther and Iron Man 3 each cost $200m. Considering Black Widow is a comparatively smaller scale, with no fully CGI characters, the reported budget feels particularly high.
Though it’s grown into possibly the biggest film franchise in history, the MCU didn’t start out with record-breaking budgets. Phase 1 entries like The Incredible Hulk and Captain America: The First Avenger clocked in at around $140 million each, while the first Avengers film had a significantly higher budget of approximately $225 million. The first two Thor movies wound up costing around $150 million each. Things started getting a bit pricier later in Phase 2 and going into Phase 3, however, with Avengers: Age of Ultron costing over $350 million, Avengers: Infinity War costing about $300 million, and Avengers: Endgame winding up with a budget of close to $400 million. Even during those more expensive periods, however, some films have kept budgets lower, such as the Ant-Man films, which both cost about $130 million to produce.
Avengers movies aside, Black Widow is at the higher end of budgets, particularly when taking into account the lack of other MCU actors on huge contracts appearing to inflate the wage side of costs. But then, after its opening weekend, during which time the film grossed over $200 million in ticket sales and Disney+ Premier Access rental fees, Black Widow looks like it’s set to be another big commercial hit for Marvel Studios.
Given the structure and scope of Black Widow, it makes sense it would be fittingly that it would cost less than the MCU’s most expensive blockbusters. Scarlett Johansson's contract, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter, is worth $15m, putting her on a par with Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans' Infinity War purses. Beyond that, talent in Black Widow is mostly first-time, who THR suggests typically command less, even with future appearances set. While actors probably account for a significant amount, it's far from an Avengers level, or even a multiple established hero movie. And though there's no fully CG character, several of the action sequences include fully rendered characters and locations, including the explosive Red Room sequence that would have stretched a mid-level MCU budget too far.
Fundamentally, Black Widow looks and feels like a major blockbuster. The $200 million budget shows big time during the film’s various action set pieces, especially during the prison break of the Red Guardian (David Harbour) and the battle about the Red Room’s flying fortress. All in all, Black Widow spent every penny making sure that the MCU’s theatrical return would be worth the wait.