Marvel Studios' most recent film arrived last month, and it marked Scarlett Johansson's first solo outing as the former Russian assassin turned Avenger, Black Widow. The film was released to positive reactions across the board minus a few flaws here and there. Black Widow even broke some records, doing extremely well for Disney+.
However, while the film did great its first week at the box office (in pandemic times), the following weeks showed some severe dips in profit. Many reacted to this news as the death of movie theaters, and that the box office simply couldn't recover from the barren landscape that COVID-19 has created.
Then, the bombshell dropped: Scarlett Johansson officially filed a lawsuit against Disney for breaching her contract when it released the film on Disney+ alongside its theatrical release. Disney released a response to the lawsuit, one which was, to say the least, not the nicest.
It even has many in the industry talking amongst themselves—many placing the blame directly on new Disney CEO Bob Chapek's inexperience.
BLACK WIDOW SHOCKED
Recently, The Wrap talked to multiple insiders in Hollywood about the shocking bombshell lawsuit that was filed by Scarlett Johansson over her profits from Black Widow and a breach of contract due to the film's Disney+ release.
Many believe that the crisis was created by new Disney CEO Bob Chapek, someone who has few talent relationships and minimal practical experience dealing with movie stars. According to an anonymous leading producer of a huge film franchise, "Chapek made the mistake:"
“Pretty sure Chapek made the mistake. He didn’t think it would blow up in his face. He doesn’t deal with talent.”
The case is a potential watershed moment for the industry; studios will really have to think about how they will contractually handle the idea of streaming releases, whether that be exclusives or hybrid releases. A standard will likely need to be set across the board.
Many believe that the former Disney CEO Bob Iger would have handled things differently, something made especially clear by Disney's official response which called Scarlett Johansson's lawsuit "callous" while also disclosing her $20 million salary.
Many people in Hollywood were shocked by the response, a feeling that Johansson's camp told The Wrap Scarlett herself was feeling, specifically calling out the tone.
Disney's statement also implied that Johansson was being greedy, with one top executive in the industry calling the response "ham-handled:"
“Last time I checked, I was pretty sure that the senior team at Disney wouldn’t get a lot of purchase by accusing someone else of being greedy... [the response was] ham-handled.”
THE LAWSUIT'S IMPLICATIONS
It's been reported that Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige himself is embarrassed about how everything is playing out—not to mention the fact that the situation exists in the first place. It certainly doesn't set a good precedence for Disney+ when it comes to future talent contracts/agreements.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage just released a brand-new trailer, and, at the end, there was something pretty worrisome. Instead of the date of the film's release like its last trailer had, it simply stated that it was coming exclusively to theaters this fall; this is a foreboding sign of more delays in the film industry's future.
If there are more delays, it will almost certainly lead to more movies going from theatrical to streaming releases. A bump in the road like this lawsuit is only going to make everything even more difficult to deal with.
As a note, the lawsuit is fully justified, and it is something that needed to happen to pave the way for the future of entertainment. It's just a shame it had to be Scarlett Johansson's first solo MCU film.
Black Widow is in theaters and streaming on Disney+ now.