Scarlett Johansson gambles away career by suing Disney for allegedly breaching her contract and denying her potential earnings by streaming Black Widow.
Johansson, who is not only the star but also the executive producer of the Marvel origin movie, Black Widow, claims that her contract guarantees her a theatrical distribution on a limited basis in a case filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The 36-year-old Scandinavian-American actress, Johansson, is now suing the company for breaching this clause and fans fear it may end her career.
There is little doubt that The Walt Disney Company is one of, if not the largest, film and television (as well as theme park) studios in the world, especially in light of the acquisition of 21st Century Fox Studios. Due to their size, they tend to get away with behaviour that is clearly outside the bounds of ethical and moral behaviour.
Few people have the confidence to speak up, let alone fight back, against the company’s wrongdoings, and when they do, they are frequently confronted by a team of top-tier lawyers who threaten them with more legal actions in order to quiet them. Speaking out against the media behemoth might be viewed as a career-ending move, especially for those in show business.
However, The Girl a Pearl Earing star is willing to take a chance on her career and is suing the Mouse House for, allegedly, breaching her contract.
The performance of the film at the box office, which was simultaneously released in theatres and on Disney’s streaming service Disney+ for a $US30 ($40) rental, was a determining factor in Johansson’s potential earnings.
According to the lawsuit filed by Scarlett Johansson, Disney sought to direct audiences to their Disney+ video streaming service “so it could retain revenue while boosting the Disney+ subscriber base,” which they claim is a proven method of increasing Disney’s stock price.
“Second, Disney wanted to substantially devalue Ms Johansson’s agreement and thereby enrich itself,” the lawsuit states.
Disney has responded, claiming that they abided by Johansson’s contract and that the complaint has absolutely “no merit.”
In a statement, Disney said, “The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The statement also added that the film’s streaming release substantially increased her capacity to obtain extra compensation on top of the $US20 million she had previously earned.
After being delayed for more than a year due to lockdowns, Black Widow opened to a pandemic-best $US80 million in North America and $US78 million internationally three weeks ago, but theatrical grosses dropped precipitously thereafter.
Aside from that, Disney said that the picture generated $US60 million in revenue from Disney+ subscriptions.
It was during the second weekend of release that the National Association of Theater Owners issued a rare statement criticising the plan, alleging that simultaneous distribution resulted in lost revenue and piracy. The statement was issued during the film’s second weekend of release.
The Walt Disney Company did not account for the losses incurred as a result of releasing the highly anticipated superhero epic on a digital platform that might be readily pirated.
Over the course of the epidemic, several of the industry’s top studios have made hybrid theatrical and streaming releases increasingly prevalent, with each following its own unique strategy. However, as a result of this new streamlined strategy, piracy increased in popularity, compounding the losses previously incurred through lockdowns.
This weekend, Disney will release Jungle Cruise in theatres and, oddly enough, on HBO Max, while Warner Bros. will release the high-budget action film The Suicide Squad in theatres and also on HBO Max the following weekend.
Theatre owners, performers, producers, and financiers have been vocal in their dissatisfaction with the probable financial losses associated with the modified hybrid release plans, and they have accused the studio of making decisions without consulting them first.
Following its decision to release its whole 2021 slate simultaneously in theatres and on HBO Max, according to the Wall Street Journal, Warner Media paid more than $US200 million in “amended agreements” to actors and actresses, among other things.
While Scarlett Johansson is entirely within her rights to sue The Walt Disney Company for allegedly breaching her contract, the real question is whether this is the best course of action for her career or whether this may be the end of it.