Hearing about a celebrity, who is worth nearly $200 million, suing a corporation worth billions might elicit an immediate eye roll from the average person. And for good reason. Rich people fighting other rich people doesn’t sound all that important.
But this Scarlett Johansson vs Disney drama is interesting because it could impact how lower level people in the industry are treated as well.
The ‘Black Widow‘ star is suing Disney for not honoring the contract they had in place, specifically the language regarding the release of the film. Johansson’s attorney claims when Disney opted not to debut the film exclusively inside theaters, they breached the contract.
It’s a move they claim depressed ticket sales for the Avengers spinoff. Much of Johansson’s compensation was tied to the box office performance of ‘Black Widow’ — if it hit certain benchmarks, bonuses would kick in.
And that’s the important thing here. Most studios will give directors/actors/writers bonuses when it comes to box office performance, but the language surrounding streaming bonuses hasn’t really advanced yet. Many entertainers are getting screwed when it comes to streaming, while Netflix, Disney, and Amazon take in lots of cash.
Disney announced in March that ‘Black Widow’ would premiere simultaneously on the studio’s subscription-based streaming service, for a premium $30 price, as well as on the big screen. The move was made as the movie theater industry was rebounding from COVID-19 closures and capacity restrictions. Ticket sales steeply declined in subsequent weeks and currently stand at $319 million globally, putting ‘Black Widow’ on track to become one of the lowest-grossing Marvel movies of all time.
So what does Disney have to say about all this? Well, they’re firing back hard and calling the filing “especially sad” and “distressing”
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 $20 million she has received to date.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Obviously Johansson doesn’t NEED any extra money, but at the same time, that doesn’t mean she should just allow Disney to do whatever the hell they want. This lawsuit could prevent them from doing the same thing to someone else who may not have the money/power to sue.