Why the ScarJo vs. Disney drama is just the beginning

ScarJo’s complaint argues that the simultaneous theater/streaming release of “Black Widow” will cost her back-end money. And she might not be the only one.

Scarlett Johansson sued Disney last week, claiming that the company breached her contract by putting Marvel’s Black Widow on Disney+ Premier Access.

Why the ScarJo vs. Disney drama is just the beginning

For Disney, the trouble may just be getting started.

It’s all about box office vs. streaming

Talent is often paid, in part, based on box office revenue. Johansson’s complaint is that she was promised a theatrical release, and that the simultaneous streaming release could cost her up to $50m.

Black Widow’s July 9 opening weekend saw:

  • $60m+ from digital sales
  • $80m in US theaters
  • $78m overseas

But box office sales fell 67% in its 2nd weekend — worse than any other Marvel flick.

Disney fired back…

… calling Johansson’s suit without merit and “distressing in its callous disregard” for the pandemic. (The same pandemic during which heiress Abigail Disney slammed the company for laying off thousands while still paying out exec bonuses.)

Though the pandemic increased streaming releases, Johansson was already concerned about it in early 2019.

Emails between her reps and Marvel’s counsel assured the star of a theatrical release or further discussion should that change.

Disney isn’t the only company navigating streaming releases

Due to the pandemic, Warner Bros. moved all of its 2021 films to simultaneous release on HBO Max.

WarnerMedia faced blowback from talent and movie theater chain/memestock AMC, and also paid out $200m+ to renegotiate talent contracts.

ScarJo’s lawsuit may be the 1st domino

In our increasingly streaming world, an A-lister whose Marvel arc ended with Avengers: Endgame (Black Widow was a prequel) is well-poised to take on the issue.

Cruella’s Emma Stone is already rumored to be “weighing her options.”

Meanwhile, Disney’s Jungle Cruise — starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt — debuted this weekend and was expected to hit ~$30m in domestic box office sales. The Rock reportedly has no plans to sue. No word on Blunt.

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