After a long wait, Black Widow was finally released for the world to see. It was always a topic of discussion if the film would end up seeing some sort of hybrid release such as films like Raya and the Last Dragon. As everyone knows, that was indeed the film's inevitable future.
And it did really well for Disney+, hitting some impressive numbers in its first week. However, when it came to the box office, the film tanked in its second week. In subsequent weeks, it hasn't been looking any better.
COVID-19 has done a number on the film industry, and it has caused many discussions of whether the future of film is with movie theaters or streaming services. Some big-ticket projects such as Pixar's Soul and Luca, which would have normally been exclusively released to theaters, were instead to be found only on streaming services—not to mention they were available to subscribers for no additional cost.
It looks like these decisions to premiere big films on streaming services have started to come back to bite some studios; in this case, that of Disney and Marvel Studios.
BLACK WIDOW STAR SUES
As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Scarlett Johansson, star of Marvel Studios' recently released Black Widow film, filed a lawsuit on Thursday, July 29, 2021, at the Los Angeles Superior Court against Walt Disney Co.
Johansson's allegations say that her contract was breached when Disney decided to release the project on its Disney+ streaming service at the same time as its theatrical debut.
This is an issue because her agreement with Disney's Marvel Entertainment/Marvel Studios guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release, in which her salary was mostly based on the film's box-office performance.
According to the suit's allegations, "Disney intentionally induced Marvel's breach of agreement" to prevent Scarlett Johansson "from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel."
A source close to WSJ estimated that Disney's decision to release the movie on their streaming service cost Johansson an estimated $50 million.
John Berlinkski, an attorney at Kasokitz Benson Torres LLP who is representing Johansson, said that "this will surely not be the last case...:"
“This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts..."
A WIDOW SCORNED
It's definitely well within Scarlett Johansson's right to be upset at how Disney handled everything. While, of course, COVID-19 is a tough situation all around, breaching contracts is not something that should be allowed to happen and then let slide.
Though, it's important to note that nobody besides those directly involved knows exactly what was in play when decisions were made and what else was going on behind the scenes on both sides.
As Johansson's attorney mentioned, this is going to be far from the last instance of stars or companies suing studios for breaches in contracts due to decisions made regarding adapting to the new pandemic era landscape.
HBO Max made a drastic movie last year when it announced that all of its major 2021 releases were going to premiere in both theaters and HBO Max simultaneously—something that drew ire from many involved with the various productions.
It's an entirely different world these days, and it will be interesting to see how everything is when the dust has completely settled in (hopefully) a year or two.
As of now, Black Widow was the only Marvel Studios project set for a hybrid release. The next film on its slate, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, is still set for a theatrical debut on September 3, 2021.