Fans have been eagerly awaiting the release of the hugely anticipated Black Widow, starring Scarlett Johansson. ScarJo, as she is affectionately known by her slew of supporters, became an instant fan favorite when cast as the tough, sassy, Natasha Romanov AKA Black Widow in Iron Man 2. We have since been gifted with six more films starring ScarJo as Romanov, cementing her place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s history.
Finally, this much-loved character has received her own movie, being the ninth time Johansson will be credited with playing the badass redhead. Black Widow’s release was delayed by a year due to COVID-19, so the excitement at it finally landing, had fans all abuzz. But this joy over the film finally arriving has been overshadowed by some very dark news. Disney, who now owns Marvel, has allegedly cheated the star out of some of her much-deserved earnings.
According to Johansson’s lawsuit, her contract stipulated that Black Widow would see a theatrical release first, of which, she would receive a cut of the profits, in addition to her $20 million salary. But Disney made the film available for streaming on its Disney Plus channel, the same day it was shown in theatres. Needless to say, this hurt the film at the box office, where it only netted $80 million in the US, and $78 million internationally. This makes it the lowest grossing MCU movie to date.
While releasing films in theatres and on streaming platforms at the same time has become something of the norm thanks to the pandemic, with things slowly returning to normal worldwide, it was expected Black Widow would perform much better in theatrical sales. True, it has been the most successful cinematic release since COVID-19, but still falls far short of the other MCU films. Johansson’s lawsuit alleges this is due to Disney making the film available for in-home streaming as soon as it was released.
The damning allegation states that Disney did this to intentionally cheat Johansson out of her contractual earnings, noting they streamed the film on their own channel, Disney Plus and therefore will pocket most of the profits. It is further claimed that the maneuver was deliberately executed to increase Disney Plus subscriber numbers, which will ultimately boost Disney share prices and earn the company even further profits.
Disney has denied the claims, stating that they have not breached Johansson’s contract, and that she will also receive a cut of any profits the movie makes from streaming, as well as in theatres. Disney also took a swipe at Scarlett Johansson’s suit, calling it “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This issue is not a new one, with actors, theater owners, and filmmakers routinely running into difficulty owing to simultaneous releases. Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of Warner contracts had to be renegotiated due to the company’s decision to release both in theatres and on streaming services at the same time. Streaming films may have become a necessary convenience thanks to the pandemic, but it seems to be causing some very problematic situations for the people that work hard to bring us these movies.
The National Association of Theater Owners have publicly criticized simultaneous releasing of films, claiming that the strategy is known to result in loss in revenue and an increase in piracy.
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