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scarlett-johansson-disney-lawsuit-Black-Widow-thefutureparty

Scarlett Johansson’s Disney lawsuit takes a stand for box-office bonuses

scarlett-johansson-disney-lawsuit-Black-Widow-thefutureparty
Black Widow // Illustration by Kate Walker

Scarlett Johansson’s Disney lawsuit takes a stand for box-office bonuses

 

Future. Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney over the streaming release of Black Widow is a stark example of how proprietary streamers are great for studios, but a headache for top talent that is used to sharing in theatrical profits. As simultaneous releases in theaters and streaming become the norm, expect future talent contracts to contain contingency plans for hefty payouts if theatrical receipts are not up to snuff.

Storming the castle
Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney for Black Widow’s simultaneous release in theaters and on Disney+ highlights how streaming is capping talent’s financial upside.

  • Refresher: Johansson claims that Disney breached her contract by releasing Black Widow on Disney+ Premiere Access instead of theaters, which made her lose millions in potential bonuses.
  • Disney allegedly used Black Widow simply to woo subscribers to the service.
  • Disney says this is all nonsense and that Johansson made more money from the move on top of her $20 million up-front fee.

So far, Black Widow has made $318 million at the global box office (a low number for a Marvel title), and it suffered a steep 68% drop in its second weekend of release.

Who holds the chips?
So the question is: how much did Scarlett Johansson’s really lose due to Disney’s Black Widow move? According to Forbes, those box-office back-end bonuses could have totaled north of $50 million. That’s a number worth suing over (and alerting the press about), but the case may still be an uphill battle because of that pesky thing called COVID.

Nonetheless, Johansson’s lawsuit is part of the bigger tapestry of talent that feels ripped off by studios’ moving their biggest movies to streaming. When WarnerMedia moved their 2021 slate to a simultaneous release on HBO Max, the studio reportedly had to shell out over $200 million in bonuses to appease the many frustrated actors, writers, and directors.