In the legal dispute between Scarlett Johansson and Disney over “Black Widow”, Disney CEO Bob Chapek has now also spoken out for the first time.
So far, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has seemed like one big family full of harmony and love. But the machinery of Disney and Marvel Studios, which was previously considered to be almost perfect, has cracked for the first time: Scarlett Johansson, one of the greatest Hollywood stars and long-time member of the Avengers as Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow, has sued Disney for an alleged breach of contract.
Accordingly, it should have been contractually assured that “Black Widow” will run exclusively in the cinema and not – as has actually happened now – will be offered in parallel via Disney’s in-house streaming service Disney +. Since, according to the indictment, she did not want to have received a response from Marvel Studios or Disney, she and her representatives decided to take legal action.
As part of a presentation of the quarterly figures, Disney CEO Robert Chapek spoke up for the first time and defended the hybrid publication policy. Chapek avoided naming Johansson’s name or the lawsuit itself:
“Both Bob Iger (Chapek’s predecessor, editor’s note) and I, along with the distribution team, decided that this would be the best strategy as it allows us to reach the largest audience.”
In the future, too, one will decide from film to film what the best method of publication is in each case, according to the CEO. The world is in turmoil due to COVID and you have to react flexibly and individually to the unclear situation. However, the entertainment company has learned a lesson from the lawsuit: According to Chapek, Disney has found ways to compensate those involved “fairly” if a film is also offered on Disney + in parallel to the cinema. The negotiations on this went off without any problems, he assured us.
Disney had previously commented on the lawsuit. But the entertainment group has resorted to an unusually clear and aggressive choice of words: Johansson’s complaint is “sad and regrettable”, especially against the background of the global corona pandemic. The terms of the contract were adhered to and Johansson even had the prospect of further income in addition to the basic fee of 20 million US dollars already received through the provision via Disney +.
It was precisely this statement that the organization’s Women in Film, ReFrame and Time’s Up condemned (via The Hollywood Reporter). In a joint statement they said:
“While we do not want to take a position on the business of the Scarlett Johansson-Walt Disney Company litigation, we condemn Disney’s recent statement attempting to portray Johansson as callous or selfish because of her struggle for her contractual rights. This gender-specific attack has no place in a business dispute and only serves to protect one’s own interests in an environment in which women and girls are seen as less capable than men without facing the actual criticism. “
Scarlett Johansson is said to be shocked and Marvel boss Kevin Feige ashamed
Scarlett Johansson also reacted indirectly to Disney’s answer. Her team reportedly told The Wrap (via ComicBook.com) that she was “shocked by the tone” that the studio chose against her. Johansson apparently has an ally in Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios and COO of Marvel Entertainment. According to insider and film journalist Matt Belloni, he is extremely upset and ashamed of the entire situation. Feige is a defender of the cinema experience and has always advocated showing Marvel films exclusively in theaters. Even with “Black Widow” the influential filmmaker and most successful producer in Hollywood is said to have been strictly against it:
“I was told that he (Kevin Feige, editor’s note) should be angry and ashamed. He voted against the plan at Disney, preferred an exclusive theatrical release and did not want to disappoint his actors. And when it all went down the drain and Johansson’s team threatened to file a lawsuit, he wanted Disney to make amends. “
Apparently, Disney did not assume that the 36-year-old would oppose such a large company with this high level of decision-making power. Belloni also claims to have learned that other stars are already considering legal action. For example, Emma Stone, who last appeared in “Cruella”. Disney also released this film at the same time in the cinema and on Disney +, while the fee at Stone is said to be linked to the cinema income. The name of Emily Blunt, whose new film “Jungle Cruise” has just started in the cinema and is available via Disney + VIP access, should also have been mentioned in this context.
It is therefore certain that Scarlett Johansson could set a precedent with her lawsuit that could decisively change the direction in which the film industry is currently moving.
In 2019 the (film) world was still okay, in many ways. Do you recognize the big films of the year from a single picture?