Scarlett Johansson VS Disney
Hollywood superstar Scarlett Johansson sues the Walt Disney Co. over undelivered earnings from the summer blockbuster “Black Widow.”
Academy Award nominee Scarlett Johansson is suing the Walt Disney Co. over their breach of contract with her. This comes amidst the corporation’s release of the new Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, film titled “Black Widow” which stars Johansson in the titular role.
The contract between the corporation and Johansson stated that she was slated to receive a percentage of the box office revenues, but Disney eventually released the film simultaneously in theaters and on its streaming service Disney+ for an additional $30.
This move came as a breach of the contract the two parties have signed, which stated that the film would be released exclusively in theaters. The Disney+ release deprives Johansson of potential earnings as it was not negotiated previously.
Her Marvel onscreen debut dates back to Iron Man 2 (2010) and went on to appear across 8 additional films, the latest of which is “Black Widow.”
Dual Release, Salary Increase?
In the months following the pandemic, multiple studios started focusing their efforts on their streaming services to recoup losses suffered from the shutting of theaters.
Attempting to follow the Netflix model, large media companies like Warner Bros., NBC, and Disney started releasing their originally produced content on their respective digital platforms to attract a larger audience.
The reopening of cinemas posed a dilemma for these companies whose contracts oblige a theatrical release whilst their earning strategy are rapidly turning towards a streaming-based one. Their response was a simultaneous release of their productions in theaters and on streaming services, allowing viewers to choose which experience suits them best.
Many have viewed this strategy as a cynical Hollywood cash-grab that dismisses the century-old tradition of cinema attendance in favor of small screens.
Celebrated filmmaker Christopher Nolan has called out Warner Brothers for their simultaneous release, saying that “Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak. They don’t even understand what they’re losing. Their decision makes no economic sense.”
Furthermore, multiple legal clashes have occurred, not too different from Johansson’s, given the sudden dismissal of the artist’s rights and fees if they were promised a share in the box office revenues. Some companies are on their way to deal with this issue by increasing the payments of the artists involved, while others such as Disney are gearing up for a public legal fight with the talents that have made it the lucrative business it is today.