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Scarlett Johansson sues Disney: Causes, Reactions and Consequences - Walla! culture

2021-08-01T07:41:29.699Z

Scarlett Johansson is far from the first actress to get into a legal battle with a Hollywood studio, but her lawsuit against Disney, which unilaterally released "The Black Widow" to her streaming service in parallel with the cinematic distribution, could set a dramatic precedent in Hollywood



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Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney: the reasons, the reactions and the consequences

Scarlett Johansson is far from the first actress to get into a legal battle with a Hollywood studio, but her lawsuit against Disney, which unilaterally released "The Black Widow" to her streaming service in parallel with the cinematic distribution, could set a dramatic precedent in Hollywood

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  • Scarlett Johansson

  • the black Widow

  • Disney

  • Disney Plus

Ilan Kaprov

Sunday, 01 August 2021, 08:49 Updated: 09:01

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Trailer "The Black Widow" (Disney Israel)

The talk of the day in the American cultural industry this past weekend, spun the lawsuit filed by Scarlett Johansson on Thursday against Disney Studios, alleging breach of contract.

Although Johnson is not the first or second actress to get into a legal battle with a Hollywood studio, the lawsuit she filed is a precedent that could dramatically affect the entire streaming industry and affect broad circles - largely because it could open the dam to further lawsuits.

But first, let's take a few steps back.

What is the background to the lawsuit?

After more than a decade as the star of Marvel's expanded cinematic world (since "Iron Man 2"), Johnson's character - Natasha Romanoff (The Black Widow) - has finally won a film dedicated to her character. "The Black Widow" was supposed to be one of the successful studios' calendar hits in 2020, but then the corona plague broke out. Initially, the film was postponed to March 2021 and then to July 2021, but Disney decided not to settle for mere cinematic distribution - and announced that "The Black Widow" would be available at the same time on the premiere day for purchase to its streaming service subscribers, Disney Plus.



This is the point to note that Disney is not the only studio that has adopted this tactic.

Warner Studios has announced that the entire crop of 2021 films (which will include hits such as "Wonder Woman 2," "Dune" and "Suicide Squad") will be distributed simultaneously in cinema and on the HBO Max streaming service.

At the same time, Warner compensated its stars, unlike Disney.

Allegedly, the studios' argument is of consideration for the fan base, which is afraid or unable to reach the cinema halls due to the plague.

Through the home purchase option, it is also possible for such fans to watch their long awaited movies.

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(Photo: GettyImages, Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

But Disney's decision was made unilaterally, and regardless of the contracts it signed with talents like Johnson. Such contracts include, in addition to salary, also percentages of the film's profits. This way the studios save on the replica budgets of the productions, and the actors guarantee themselves a safety net. If the film fails, they will be content with the amount stated in the contract (even if it is "low" compared to their attractiveness), and if they succeed - they will be able to rake in a handsome box office. For example, Robert Downey Jr. earned $ 20 million for his participation in "The Avengers: The End of the Game," and an additional $ 35 million thanks to a contract that guaranteed him 8% of the film's profits.



In the lawsuit, Johansson claims that Disney's decision violated an explicit clause in her contract, which required the distribution of the film in theaters, but here it does not stop.

According to Johnson, Disney's decision to offer the movie in a home format stemmed from the goal Disney set for increasing the number of its streaming service subscribers.

Thus, outgoing CEO Bob Eiger and incoming CEO Bob Chapek directly (through fat bonuses) benefited from the astronomical increase in the number of Disney Plus subscribers.

"In short," the lawsuit states, "the message from Disney executives was clear: increase the number of Disney Plus subscribers, ignore your contractual obligation - and distribute accordingly."

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(Photo: Disney Israel)

How did Marvel's decision affect the profits of the "Black Widow"?

To date, the "Black Widow" has grossed about $ 320 million in the world coffers (equal distribution between North America and the rest of the world).

Disney claims that the film also recorded a profit of about $ 60 million from purchases at Disney Plus.

Even if we put these sums together, "The Black Widow" is by far the worst bottom line of all the films in the expanded universe since 2008. The fact that it has become one of the most lucrative films in the post-Corona era probably does not comfort Johnson and her representatives.

Mainly because as expected, the fact that the film was released for home viewing made it instantly an illegal download hit.

Add to that the fact that the film will be available for free on Disney Plus as early as August 10th.

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How did Disney respond to the lawsuit?

Through a particularly scathing message to the media, which included a breach of one of the unwritten rules in the relationship between a studio and its stars: exposing their pay. "There is no value in this lawsuit," the statement said. "Plus in payment, it significantly increased its ability to receive additional compensation over the $ 20 million it has already earned to date."



The harsh response has also led to leading women's organizations and cultural movements, such as Women In Film, Reframe and Time's Up, in a joint statement. the attempt to defame Johansson because it wanted to protect its rights. "offensives gender has no place in labor disputes, and it contributes to an environment in which women are perceived as less able to claim their rights than men."



industry leaders decided to also against Disney, including super agent Brian Lord. "Disney has falsely and shamelessly accused Johnson of being insensitive to the plague, even though they know it is not."

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Earned capital as a percentage of profits.

Robert Downey Jr. (Photo: GettyImages)

What are the implications of the lawsuit on the industry?

Johnson was the first to break with the tradition of recent years, in which multi-armed studios like Disney have become the sole decision-makers as to how to distribute the assets in their hands.

Many creators and actors have spoken out in recent years (including giants like Martin Scorsese) against the tendency of entities like Netflix to discuss many works for doom within their never-ending library.

Johnson here opens the door to a reality where studios will risk lawsuits in the face of any unilateral move.



According to a report by the Hollywood Reporter, Emma Stone is now considering suing Disney herself, after the starring "Crowella" was also transferred to paid distribution at Disney Plus.

Additional reports suggest that other stars are also considering their move against the world's largest entertainment conglomerate.

Beyond the very uncomfortable position in which Disney finds itself in front of its stars (and no less important, in the face of the spirit of the time and social expectations), it enters a vague reality in an attempt to deal with future lawsuits.

The corona is an event that has not yet gained a well-established position from the courts, and it is not at all certain that these will eventually stand by their side.

Among other things, because other studios have chosen to do the right thing and compensate their stars for the decision.

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She is also considering suing Disney.

Emma Stone (Photo: GettyImages)

But the more dramatic impact may have been on the format, which seemed to be about to become a standard in Hollywood: the dual distribution to cinemas and streaming services.

"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings", Disney's next big movie, is designed for an extremely short exclusive cinema distribution window - 45 days (instead of the 90s that are considered standard today), as well as "The Eternal".

More Disney executives have hinted at exploring the possibility of using dual distribution from day one, during last year's big board conference.



Will such measures now also face a legal threat?

And if so, how will the abundance through which Disney hopes to recruit additional Disney Plus subscribers be affected?

And as in many other cases, the direction in which the Disney story will go will probably affect all the other players in the industry.

What will come to the cinemas near us and what to our small screen?

The answers to all of these may be hidden in the consequences of this legal dispute.

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Source: walla

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