Disney didn’t renegotiate Johansson’s contract to include a streaming release, resulting in a lawsuit and Johansson losing a projected $50 mil.
Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney on claims that the hybrid streaming and theater release of Black Widow cost her over $50 million. Due to the pandemic’s disastrous effect on the entertainment industry, many production companies pivoted to streaming releases, or hybrid streaming-theatrical releases, for their film debuts. Most controversially, Warner released an entire planned roster of films on HBO Max which was accessible with a regular subscription. Similarly, though with more financial benefit to it, Disney’s titles were released on Disney+ but through Premier Access, which incurs a $30 fee on top of a Disney+ subscription.
Black Widow, the MCU’s most recent film, did a hybrid release. That is mostly due to the pandemic, but also a tactic to improve Disney+’s standings. Black Widow’s opening weekend box office performance broke down to $80 million domestic (a new pandemic era record), $78 million international, and $60 million from Disney+’s Premier Access release, ending with a steep decline in performance the following days. Disney’s strategy behind the Black Widow release has proven to be controversial in some circles, and Johansson is claiming it cost her a lot of money.
Now, reported by WSJ, Johansson is suing Disney for failing to renegotiate her contract upon the change in the release strategy for Black Widow—a change which is projected to have cost her over $50 million and is being argued as a breach of contract. Johansson’s original contract allegedly guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release and negotiated her salary based on, in large part, the performance of the film at the box office. After allegedly assuring a theater-only release and then reneging on that promise once the pandemic hit, Disney was unresponsive in renegotiating her contract to fit the new circumstances—something Johansson’s team states Disney said it would do.
Johansson’s team believes Disney should have followed suit like, perhaps, WarnerMedia who renegotiated many contracts that relied on box-office performances when it pivoted to releasing films on HBO Max. Warner reportedly had to pay out over $200 million to their talent as a stipulation of the renegotiations. Johansson’s suit may not be the last of its kind as more and more production companies are beginning to release films on streaming, attempting to prioritize or bolster the reputation of their streaming services as the streaming wars heat up.
Many people involved in the entertainment industry reasonably believe that greater at home accessibility to films have and will hurt box-office performance. What’s more, there is confusion in general as to what is being counted in box office numbers and how to relate those numbers to the overall success of a film in this (nearly) post-pandemic entertainment field. As for Black Widow and Johansson’s suit, this will be a sign for all Hollywood executives that though the media landscape is changing, the respect owed to talent will not.
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Sep 03, 2021
- Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
- The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023
Scarlett Johansson Sues Disney Over Black Widow’s Disney+ Release
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