Scarlett Johansson, Black Widow star, has settled her case with The Walt Disney Company ( /DIS) regarding her salary. The actress and studio engaged in a heated argument over the case which led to a private arbitration. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Johansson stated that she was pleased to have worked with Disney on their differences. "I am incredibly proud of the work that we have done together over the years, and I have greatly enjoyed my creative partnership with the team. The actress said that she looks forward to continuing their collaboration in the years to come.
The sentiment was echoed by Alan Bergman, Disney Studios Chairman. "I am very happy that we were able to reach a mutual understanding with Scarlett Johansson about Black Widow. He stated that they appreciate her contributions to Marvel Cinematic Universe. They look forward to working together in a number of future projects, including Disney’s Tower of Terror.
The Streaming Effect on Actor Income
Johansson brought the lawsuit against Disney's release strategy Black Widow. This is part of Disney's lucrative Marvel franchise. The movie was simultaneously released in theatres and online.
It had mixed results. Black Widow was the biggest opening weekend of any movie this year, earning $80 million at box office. It also earned $60 million through Disney Plus Premiere Access, which allowed viewers to rent the movie for $30. It saw a dramatic 70% drop in theater collections, the second-greatest decline in Marvel history. To date, the movie has grossed $379 million.
Johansson sued Disney over breach of contract. She claimed that Disney's release strategy had "lured” viewers away from theaters, and reduced her earnings from the film. Actors typically get a share of the movie's box-office receipts.
In addition to the actor's complaint, Disney was also accused of purposely streaming the movie to enrich its coffers. The complaint stated that the Disney+ release strategy not only increased its value, but also saved Marvel (and thereby herself) what Marvel called'very large box-office bonuses' that Marvel would otherwise have to pay Ms. Johansson."
Johansson was supported by many actors. Actor Alec Baldwin, for example, supported Johansson on Twitter by saying that he was with #TeamScarlett.
The Business Model is changing
The lawsuit was more than just accusations and counter-accusations. It also highlighted the changing dynamics in the movie industry due to streaming services. These streaming services have not only disrupted distribution models at major studios, but also altered the compensation system for stars.
Warner Media, owned by AT&T Inc. ( T), announced a streaming only release strategy for 2020. It spent more than $200m renegotiating individual contracts with actors for its releases. Johansson's lawsuit against Disney is reported to have initiated a frenzy of renegotiations among actors who will be appearing in the forthcoming streaming releases.
In September, Disney CEO Bob Chapek stated that talent deals are in a "reset" following the pandemic shutdown. "We have a deal that was conceived under certain conditions, but it results in a movie being released in a completely new set. So there is a bit reset happening right now. And ultimately, we'll consider that when we do future talent deals, plan for that, and make sure that that it's incorporated." 5
Disney stated that all remaining movies from its 2021 movie slate would be released first in theaters, then streaming. The latest Marvel movie, Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings is the second to be released.