As the pandemic still lingers around the globe, the entertainment industry has changed dramatically. Most notably the way we receive movies. Streaming services like Disney+, Netflix, Amazon, HBO Max, and Paramount+, have homed some of the biggest movies of the last year.
The Walt Disney Company saw multiple projects from the various studios make the movie to streaming such as The One and Only Ivan, Onward, Artemis Fowl, Soul, Luca, with titles such as Mulan, Raya and the Last Dragon, Cruella, Black Widow, and Jungle Cruise, hit the streamer with Premier Access. Sadly, as nice as it was for fans, it wasn’t all good news for people behind the scenes.
Talks of Pixar employees not being happy their recent films hit the streamer for free and not on the big screen, had their feelings hurt. The biggest and most notable drama has been the Scarlett Johansson/Disney lawsuit. For years, studios paid stars a base salary. But bigger names often negotiated a share of box office grosses or a cut of licensing fees, which for blockbuster movies could yield eight-figure payouts. Disney simultaneously released Black Widow in theaters and on its Disney+ streaming channel in July. The company stood to collect most of the $30 users paid to watch the movie at home, compared with roughly 60% of movie theater tickets sold. The more home viewers, the less Johansson collects, her team feared.
A lawsuit was opened up by Johansson’s team. In her complaint, Johansson claims Disney breached contract when the studio made the decision to release Black Widow on Disney+, the same day the Marvel film hit theaters. The actress earns bonuses when the film hits certain box office milestones and she is accusing Disney of not having the film exclusively in theaters because it “saw the opportunity to promote its flagship subscription service.” Disney then demanded the lawsuit over Johansson’s pay be moved to arbitration, a procedure in which a dispute is submitted, by agreement of the parties, to one or more arbitrators who make a binding decision on the dispute. In choosing arbitration, the parties opt for a private dispute resolution procedure instead of going to court.
The outcome of the legal battle could help set new compensation benchmarks for digital releases, according to current and former Disney employees, as well as executives who do business with the studio. Most recently, Cruella star, Emma Stone was debating taking legal action as well, but Disney offered an 8-figure salary to return for the sequel. Sadly, some talent are worried still, and according to the Wall Street Journal, the Russo brothers, who have just come off giving Disney two back to back $2 Billion blockbusters in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, are among those worried. Per their recent report, the duo were in talks to helm a new movie for Marvel Studios, but talks have since stalled in light of the Johansson lawsuit.
Since the lawsuit, brothers Joe Russo and Anthony Russo, directors of Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame,” the highest-grossing movie of all time, hit an impasse in negotiations to direct another Marvel movie. The Johansson dispute left them unsure how their next movie would be distributed and how they would be paid.
It is unknown at this time what the Russo brothers were in talks to direct. Secret Wars was a project that the directors have expressed interest in adapting in the future. However, it seems way too early to jump in that direction as Phase 4 is just kicking off. Perhaps it was for the rumored X-Men project, The Mutants. Time will tell, and I am sure Feige won’t let his most notable talent just walk away, so for now we wait and see how this boils over.