Disney boss defends Black Widow release strategy amid Scarlett Johansson lawsuit

Lawsuit claims Disney breached Marvel star’s contract

Louis Chilton
Friday 13 August 2021 14:36
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Black Widow - Trailer

Disney CEO Bob Chapek has defended the company’s decision to release films such as Black Widow simultaneously in cinemas and on Disney Plus.

The film, a Marvel comics adaptation starring Scarlett Johansson, was available to stream for an additional fee on Disney Plus’s Premier Access service.

Last month, it was announced that Johansson was initiating legal proceedings against the studio, alleging that the online release breached her contract.

The filing, which was reviewed by The Independent, alleged that Johansson’s compensation for the movie was “largely based” on Black Widow’s box office performance, which was substantially lower than projected.

On 29 July, Disney responded to the lawsuit, saying in a statement: “Disney has fully complied with Ms Johansson’s contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.”

Speaking to Wall Street analysts during an earnings call (per The Hollywood Reporter), Chapek said that Disney had entered into “hundreds of talent arrangements” that had “by and large gone very smoothly”.

“These films were conceived during a time when … we certainly didn’t know about COVID,” he continued.

“Just like what we’ve done many times before, we’ve found ways to fairly compensate our talent so that, no matter what, everyone feels satisfied.”

Despite taking in a robust $80m in the US over its opening weekend, Black Widow suffered an unexpectedly high drop-off rate going into its second week (69 per cent), which many have attributed in part to its simultaneous streaming release.

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Critics of the simultaneous release system have argued that the practise exacerbates online piracy, allowing for high-quality pirated versions of films to be available much earlier than with a standard cinema release.

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