Scarlett Johansson Sues Disney Over ‘Black Widow’ Release

Disney, citing the continuing coronavirus threat, ultimately decided to release several major movies simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access. It used the strategy in May for “Cruella,” which starred Emma Stone and took in $221 million worldwide. (Disney has kept Disney+ revenue for “Cruella” a secret.) On Friday, Disney will give the same treatment to “The Jungle Cruise,” a comedic adventure that stars Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson. It is not known if Ms. Stone, Ms. Blunt and Mr. Johnson renegotiated their contracts with Disney as a result.

In December, WarnerMedia kicked a hornet’s nest by abruptly announcing that more than a dozen Warner Bros. movies — the studio’s entire 2021 slate — would each arrive in theaters and on HBO Max. The decision prompted an outcry from major stars and their agents over the potential loss of box office-related compensation, forcing Warner Bros. to make new deals. It ultimately paid roughly $200 million to thwart the rebellion.

The deeper question is this: If old-line studios are no longer trying to maximize the box office for each film but instead shifting to a hybrid model where success is judged partly by ticket sales and partly by the number of streaming subscriptions sold, what does that mean for how stars are paid — and where they make their movies?

The traditional model, the one that studios have used for decades to make high-profile film deals, involves paying small fees upfront and then sharing a portion of the revenue from ticket sales. The bigger the hit, the bigger the “back end” paydays for certain actors, directors and producers.

The streaming giants have done it differently. They pay more upfront — usually much, much more — in lieu of any back-end payments, which gives them complete control over future revenue. It means that people get paid as if their projects are hits before they are released (or even made).

Ms. Johansson’s suit also took direct aim at Bob Chapek, Disney’s chief executive, and Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chairman, by citing the stock grants given to them as rewards for building Disney+, which has more than 100 million subscribers worldwide. “Disney’s financial disclosures make clear that the very Disney executives who orchestrated this strategy will personally benefit from their and Disney’s misconduct,” the complaint said.

According to the suit, Ms. Johansson’s representatives approached Disney and Marvel in recent months with a request to renegotiate her contract. “Disney and Marvel largely ignored Ms. Johansson,” the suit said.

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