Actress Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney is not an isolated, fortuitous or accidental event. It’s about the inevitable reaction to a series of increasingly uncomfortable situations between actors and studios, with a complex result.
For now, Scarlett Johansson’s decision seems to open Pandora’s box of a phenomenon that will not culminate in her case in court. There are consistent rumors that Emma Stone and Emily Blunt are considering similar action. The decision to equate movie and streaming premieres appears to have caused a difficult schism to resolve.
Especially when actors and actresses begin to understand that a full return to cinema screens is highly unlikely, at least in the near future. In several countries, the Delta variant of coronavirus it is causing sanitary measures to become very strict again. A fact, that without a doubt will impact on the return to theaters. And especially, in how the cinematographic panorama is perceived under the impact of the health emergency.
It is difficult to predict what may happen in the medium or long term with the exhibition in cinema. Today, streaming continues to be the best option to avoid substantial losses in production and net revenue. It’s more than likely that mixed releases will continue to be the norm.
It is a situation that would lead to the reformulation of standard contracts with a duration of more than two years. In addition, that from now on, the studies they will have to take the profit margin on the different platforms, when negotiating with talent.
Suddenly, it seems that the landscape of relationships between actors and actresses has become unpredictable. The outlook could affect studios’ decisions when deciding whether or not major premieres will reach streaming video platforms. That, in the midst of an increasingly complicated, harsh and volatile scenario of the film industry.
The coin of contention between the big names and the studios: streaming video platforms
More than a year ago, Warner Media took the first step towards equating traditional cinema with streaming. The simultaneous release in theaters and on HBO Max of the studio’s most anticipated films, shook the foundations of the Industry. Immediately, there were angry reactions.
Christopher Nolan was one of the best known voices who complained that he considered it a maneuver that affected the return to the cinema. Also, there were concerned comments about Denis Villeneuve, director of the expected Dune and of Patty jenkins. All expressed their concerns about the future of cinema designed for theaters and, also, the production as a whole.
So far, the outcome of Warner Media’s decision has been mixed. The same as the Disney Plus experience, which shortly after the announcement of its competitor, decided to release Mulan under the same scheme. The remake of the animated classic had a disappointing performance in both theaters and streaming. And, in fact, those directed by Mickey still do not offer clear figures on what happened with the film.
Nevertheless, in case of Black widow is especially worrisome. The film is the first in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be released in theaters after the pandemic. And although the franchise has maintained the interest of the public with its series on Disney Plus, the return to the cinema is a priority.
There were some comments on whether the decision to release Black widow Cate Shortland’s was correct. After all, this was a movie based on a character now deceased in the franchise. Technically, it did not provide information to the expected phase four. Much more so when the arrival on the big screen had suffered several successive delays.
But, in the end, Marvel decided that it would be the farewell to one of its emblematic characters, the door to the new stories that will extend in the medium term. The experiment had tepid results. The film achieved an initial gross of $ 80 million.
But on his second weekend, he had a colossal loss of audience and box office. In fact, it has the dubious honor of becoming the movie with the worst weekend since Marvel began its hit universe.
However, its immediate premiere on Disney Plus managed to cover the losses. Even the study itself revealed that the film raised $ 60 million thanks to Premier Access to the platform. As the fourth movie to hit the service at the same time as the theater, Black widow became a considerable success under the format.
According to Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit, “Disney intentionally induced Marvel to breach the agreement, without justification,” a claim that hints at contractual problems. The libel also claims that the action ended “preventing Ms. Johansson from getting the full benefit of the settlement.” The Wall Street Journal, which detailed the conditions of the complaint in court, makes it clear that the actress claims its inclusion in the earnings.
The big question posed by the Scarlett Johansson case and its possible outcome is obvious. What will happen to future Marvel movies to be released? In fact, even broader. What happens to the relationships between actors and studies with contracts that do not contemplate the trial and error phase of the mixed system? Hollywood is likely to face an unprecedented situation for which there are few real options.
One step away from disaster: from Black widow and Scarlett Johansson to Dune
In July, the president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, commented on an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that the studio contracts had changed. From being legal ties to years and multiple movies, contracts would be reduced to short deals. In fact, Feige made it clear that it would be the scheme in all subsequent productions.
“Now [los contratos] will be variable. They will vary from project to project, cast to cast. Really, what we want now are people who join in, who get excited about the universe, who see the opportunity to create more things. Instead of being locked in with contractual obligations ”.
Of course, although it seems a gesture of generosity, it was perhaps the announcement of what would later happen with Scarlett Johansson. It is evident that Marvel begins to consider the possibility of renegotiating specific actions of its massive cast. Which could mean that, from now on, casts will have to negotiate their participation in specific films and not their permanence in the series.
Is the decision related to changes in the premiere schedules? So far, the issue of salary at Marvel has been quietly debated. Although of course, it is evident that as the universe increased in popularity and power, its actors began to have contracts with greater benefits.
Much more complicated still is the fact that theatrical release and streaming earnings are still uncertain terrain. Something similar to what Marvel is going through could occur amid the possible success of Dune from Warner, future duology. How will the studio negotiate streaming earnings on contracts drafted when the possibility was remote with actors? What awaits the actors in limited series or seasons from now on?
Scarlett Johansson has just started a landmark trial. Perhaps also, he changed the face of Hollywood behind closed doors.