So what Black widow Finally hitting theaters after many postponements, Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney for breach of contract regarding the film’s simultaneous release on Disney+ and in theaters.
This dual approach to movie premieres was implemented by several studios as a compromise during the current pandemic. It allows moviegoers to watch the movies on the big screen if they feel safe, or watch them at home if they don’t want to see the movie on the big screen, if they are isolated or in an area with high infection rates. The measure also exposed studies such as Warner (which airs all of its 2021 series movies simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max) to criticism and threats of legal action from theater networks, stakeholders, producers, and even actors.
“It is no secret that Disney is releasing movies like Black Widow directly on Disney Plus to increase subscriber numbers and thus boost the company’s share price, and that it hides behind Covid -19 as a pretext to do so. But ignoring the contracts of the artists responsible for the success of their films in favor of this myopic strategy is a violation of their rights and we are eager to prove it in court. This will surely not be the last time that Hollywood talent takes on Disney and makes it clear that regardless of what the company says, they have a legal obligation to fulfill their contracts. “
The launch of Black Widow has become the spearhead of a new battle in the war of both theatrical and streaming launches.
WHY IS SCARLETT JOHANSSON SUING DISNEY OVER BLACK WIDOW?
Actors’ contracts often state that they will receive a combination of a fixed salary and a percentage of box office profits, or bonuses based on meeting certain criteria (known as side deals). This formula is advantageous to the studio, prevents the budget from being too large during production, and limits overall loss if the film fails at the box office. It can also be very lucrative for the actor, he can make a lot more money from end-of-contract bonuses than he could have bargained for on a fixed salary. For instance, Robert Downey Jr. received $ 20 million for the role of Tony Stark inside Avengers Endgameand an additional $ 55 million from its backend deal for an 8% share of box office profits.
These contracts typically include a guarantee that the film will receive an exclusive theatrical release, reaching maximum box office potential. In its lawsuit against disney, Scarlett Johansson says his salary was largely related to the performance of Black widow, the actress receives bonuses when the film reaches certain box office targets, and the decision to simultaneously release the film in Disney + constitutes a breach of contract. Black Widow raised $ 158.8 million internationally during its opening weekend, and in a rare lifting of the veil surrounding streaming figures, Disney revealed that he had also generated $ 60 million in Disney + Premier Access purchases, for a combined global launch of $ 218.8 million.
Even if Black widow is another solid success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the film dropped dramatically at the box office on its second weekend. Its simultaneous release in Disney + Some people not only choose to pay to watch it at home instead of in theaters, but it also makes the movie more vulnerable to illegal downloads. In your legal action, Scarlett Johansson claims that this hybrid exit strategy reduced the earnings of Black widow at the box office and thus had a significant impact on how much he was expected to earn.
Disney responded to Scarlett Johansson’s complaint in a forceful statement, saying: “This complaint is completely unfounded. This lawsuit is particularly sad and distressing because of its lack of regard for the horrible and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. ” The company did not address the claim that it ignored previous efforts to renegotiate the actress’s contract, although the statement states that “the launch of Black Widow on Disney + with Premier Access has dramatically improved the ability to [Scarlett Johansson] to earn compensation in addition to the $ 20 million he has received to date. “
A Wall Street Journal source with knowledge of the actress’s contract says she could lose $ 50 million in revenue due to the launch of Black Widow on Disney +. Ultimately, the legal position of Scarlett Johansson It will depend on your ability to prove the damage suffered, and the charge of Disney whether the lawsuit shows “callous disregard” for the pandemic is irrelevant. The hot response from the studios Disney It seems destined to push back the actress by threatening her public image. However, the actress’s attorney, John Berlinski, responded in a statement (via Variety) arguing that the release of Black widow about Disney + and the alleged breach of contract was motivated by the personal economic interest of Disney:
“It’s no secret that Disney is releasing films like Black Widow directly on Disney Plus to increase subscriber numbers and thus boost the company’s stock price – and that it is hiding behind the Covid -19 as a pretext to do so. But ignoring the contracts of the artists responsible for the success of his films in favor of this short-sighted strategy is a violation of their rights and we are eager to prove it in court. This will surely not be the last time Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that whatever the company may claim, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts. ”
HOW WARNER HANDLED SIMULTANEOUS HBO MAX MOVIE RELEASES
Disney isn’t the first studio to spark controversy with a hybrid release model. The coronavirus pandemic has posed an unprecedented hurdle for Hollywood, with cinemas closing their doors under lockdown measures around the world. The studios’ first reaction was to postpone the release of their films like James Bond No Time to Die which seems destined never to be released. However, when theaters started reopening in August 2020 and films like Tenet and The New Mutants aired, it was quickly realized that the box office would not immediately resume its luster.
Anticipating (rightly) that the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on theaters would last for a good part of the next year, Warner made the bold announcement that all of his 2021 films would be released in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously . This announcement sparked a strong reaction in the film industry. In a statement, AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron accused Warner of “sacrificing a considerable portion of the profitability of its film studio division, as well as that of its production partners and filmmakers, for subsidize its startup on HBO Max. ”
Director Christopher Nolan criticized Warner for not consulting or even warning his filmmakers and associated talent before the news broke, and claimed the hybrid release model “makes no economic sense.”
Warner has had to deal with his own critics threatening legal action over the HBO Max release plan . Legendary Entertainment, which provided 75% of the funding for Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong , sent Warner legal warnings after being taken aback by the announcement of the simultaneous releases. In January 2021, THR reported that Warner was close to making a deal with Legendary to resolve the legal dispute, and Bloomberg reported shortly after that Warner settled disputes with filmmakers and actors by offering them guaranteed salaries, larger performance-based bonuses and other means of compensation.
THE IMPACT ON HOLLYWOOD
Like the legal difficulties faced by Warner, it is extremely likely that the lawsuit filed by Scarlett Johansson in Disney eventually be settled amicably. But whether the dispute is resolved in public or behind closed doors, this lawsuit sets a precedent for other parties involved in hybrid releases. Disney’s upcoming film , Jungle Cruise, will use the same release model as Black Widow, which means if Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunthaven’t already made new deals with the studio, they could also sue for breach of contract. Given the number of actors, crew members, and companies involved in these films whose contracts with Disney will have included some sort of final deal, there’s even a potential class action lawsuit brewing.
Another possible effect is that Disney and other studios in the future will avoid trying to surprise actors by changing their release plans. Much of the anger over Warner / HBO Max’s announcement stemmed from the studio making the decision unilaterally and failing to notify partners whose revenues depended on an exclusive theatrical release. Scarlett Johansson’s complaint says her team tried to renegotiate her contract after the decision to stream Black Widow on Disney + Premier Access, but Marvel Studios and Disney have not responded.