Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney shows the film industry is in turmoil


Actress Scarlett Johansson files a lawsuit against Disney because the shared theatrical and Disney+ release of Black Widow was not included in her contract and that decision would now put her at a financial disadvantage. It is the next chapter in a turbulent Marvel career for Johansson and the story of the changing release strategy in the film world, with streaming throwing a spanner in the works for many.

Scarlett and Cinemas vs Disney
Black Widow was supposed to be the first film to open the next stage in the MCU in May 2020. Marvel remained committed to bringing the film to theaters, which is why the release was delayed several times. That ensured that the Marvel series on Disney + now came first. In the end, this summer, partly thanks to the vaccination campaigns against COVID-19, turned out to be the first suitable moment to release the film. Only, as planned, that would not only be in cinemas, but also on Disney + via Premier Access that same day and a price of 30 euros. With that, you could watch the film as much as you wanted on the streaming service. The cinema owners had also previously criticized Disney for that choice.

That decision is now at the heart of Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney. According to the actress, an exclusive theatrical release was included in her contract because she can then enjoy one percent of the box office revenue. Other MCU actors such as Robert Downey Jr. had that clause in their contract. He earned an extra $55 million on top of his $20 million salary for Endgame . Because Marvel films are the main attraction, and Black Widow had to become that after the last two disastrous years for cinemas. scarl

Black Widow did not do badly at the box office, grossing $319 million to date. But the Disney+ release also brought in $60 million in revenue. Remarkable, but how many cinema tickets could that 60 million have been? If you can watch the film with a family of 4 for 30 euros, you save a cinema trip that easily costs twice as much with 4. And that may have yielded Johansson less than expected.

They are also Marvel movies that fans often go and watch multiple times. And most people did not pay again for a second time, because that was no problem via Disney+. As a result, Black Widow ‘s second-week theatrical revenues already dropped more than 60%, the largest for any Marvel film.

What strengthens the charges, according to insiders, is that Johansson’s lawyers argue that the Disney+ addition is thus a breach of contract. Even after an attempt to rework the deal after the changed strategy, there remains a difference between what was agreed and what was ultimately implemented. Disney denies this, but the actress would already have legal ground to file a lawsuit.

Own pocket
Is there anything to be said for the studio’s decision. Yes. The pandemic is still raging through the world. The Disney+ release also allows people who do not yet dare to go to the cinema, are still in lockdown or are financially more difficult to see the film. But Disney mainly thinks of its own wallet. The price of a cinema ticket is of course not only for the House of the Mouse, while the proceeds of Disney+ do go entirely to them. Johansson also cited that as the suspected reason for her indictment. A company, of course, remains a company.

But the cinemas made the Marvel Cinematic Universe great. The communal experience and word of mouth brought more people into seats in front of the big screen movie after movie, culminating so far with Endgame , which was This may be hopelessly naive, but the largest film studio in the world could have been a little more considerate of the people who contributed to their success. A Disney+ release a few weeks after the cinema release, for example, or an additional premium if you wanted to watch the film again on Disney+: some people might have considered a visit to the cinema after all.

Pay for work
Now, the company is bouncing the ball back at Johansson, saying that its indictment is especially “sad and staggering” due to its “unfeeling disregard for the terrible and long-lasting global effects” of the pandemic. That comes from a company that reopened Disney World while Florida was in a COVID crisis.

Disney goes further by saying that “the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly increased her chances of earning additional revenue on top of the $20 million she has already received” for the role. What exactly they mean by that is unclear, but the math that they did earlier in this article makes me suspect something different than what they claim. The specific addition of her pay even has an indignant tone. But whether the lawsuit is accepted or not has nothing to do with her wages. Actors may earn a ridiculous amount of money, but they can also stand up for their rights.