Who wins and who loses in the battle between Scarlett Johansson and Disney? | New

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Black Widow Star Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney has plunged Hollywood into a speculative frenzy for a week and this will intensify the focus on the box office performance of the second weekend of Jungle cruise.

Like Black Widow, Jungle cruise just happens to be another Disney movie starring a big female star – in this case Emily Blunt, who appears opposite Dwayne Johnson but, according to reports, was paid less than half of what her co-star earned – that the studio released simultaneously in theaters and on its burgeoning Disney + Premier Access platform.

While there is no way to calculate a precise dollar amount of potential ticket sales lost due to the day and date launch of a tent pole on PVoD during a pandemic, few would disagree that the simultaneous release strategy has an impact on cinema.

Black Widow, which Disney announced this week had become the top-grossing North American release during the pandemic at $ 169.7 million, opened for $ 80 million, and earned $ 60 million worldwide on Disney + Premier Access. In the second weekend it fell 68% – the steepest drop from a Marvel Cinematic Universal (MCU) tent pole released by Disney after Ant-Man and the Wasp fell 62% in 2018 – and no more issues of PVoD have been released.

Johansson argued in his case that Disney interfered with its contract with Marvel Studios and prompted Marvel Studios to break its contract by putting what it believed to be an exclusive theatrical release on Disney + Premier Access. (Platform subscribers must pay an additional $ 29.99 to watch the movie on Premier Access.)

It’s unprecedented for an A-lister to challenge a titan like Disney in this way. There will have been weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations between the parties before it got to this and Johansson felt compelled to act.

What does this mean to others in his position? Report claimed Emma Stone weighing options after Disney day and date tent pole Cruel surrendered at the box office on its second weekend in early summer. There have also been rumors about Blunt, although in his case a lot depends on Jungle cruisethis weekend’s performance and the extent of its drop at the box office.

Open the valves?

Hollywood insiders are divided over whether Johansson’s legal deposit – which prompted a sharp retort from Disney over its ‘callous’ disregard for the global effects of the pandemic and referred to his $ 20 million Black Widow payday – will open the floodgates to a torrent of similar lawsuits.

“Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney is courageous and important, however, it’s not the most egregious example of what’s happening with streaming windows,” notes producer, sales agent and attorney John Sloss. “[WarnerMedia CEO] Jason Kilar’s decision to move the entire Warner Brothers roster to a day-and-date release on HBO Max was a cheeky move as it was clearly about devoting resources to increasing subscriber numbers.

“I think in this case, Disney made a financial decision, at least in part, to optimize revenue from Black Widow rather than just focusing on growing its subscriber base. I think there is a big difference between the two.

Warner Bros. faced a huge backlash after its HBO Max announcement late last year, angering high-profile collaborators like Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve, whose Dune will open the Venice Film Festival in September. The studio set out to make amends by making deals with key talent. Kilar said the Warner Bros. movies will return to exclusive – albeit shorter – theatrical releases in 2022 and that, overall, the outrage has died down.

It remains to be seen whether Disney will agree to make deals with talents whose films will open on the day and date – so far nothing concrete has been reported.

CEO Bob Chapek has hinted over the past year that the company is approaching distribution during Covid on a case-by-case basis and must protect its movie assets when the cinema has taken a huge hit and hesitations remain high.

He is also passionate about Disney + and has reorganized the studio’s activity around the platform. Wall Street likes the streaming model to give consumers a choice and shareholders have benefited as well. Since its launch in November 2019, the number of subscribers worldwide has exceeded 100 million and Disney’s valuation has soared to $ 320 billion.

But what happens to the final deal, where raw first dollar participants reaped the rewards of a powerful box office performance? First, according to sources, very few stars in the Hollywood firmament actually benefit from these deals in any significant way. Second, Hollywood has decided to abolish profit sharing since Netflix started buying talent with lucrative upfront payments.

“Talent has been forced for a while to try to be as early as possible, which ultimately creates this cycle of increasing budgets and increasing investment risk, making it in some cases the only model. viable for funding, ”says Labid Aziz, director of Los Angeles-based film and television production company PoC Studios. “It ultimately makes the content commoditized, which I don’t think any of us want.”

Disney and other media giants might disagree. In an age of consolidation – Discovery and WarnerMedia and Amazon and MGM being two recent and relevant examples – some argue that the cards will be stacked in favor of Disney because less competition makes it harder for talent to ask for more money. Plus, how can talent keep back-end deals at a time when films are migrating faster than ever to digital platforms and the exclusive 90-day cinema window has been reduced to 45 in the space of? 18 months ?

“We’ll see what happens when the movies come back,” says Sloss, who agrees the 90-day theatrical window is dead (“you can’t put that genius back in the bottle”).

Regarding the initial deals, he said, “It’s entirely possible that these types of negotiations will become the norm, as streaming services become where the greatest consumption occurs. Netflix is ​​a prime example: there was no stunt, no income stream to participate in, the talents who work with Netflix regularly do it for more money and understand that this is a buyout. .

“Sexist attack”

After Disney revealed Johansson’s salary the Black Widow, Women In Film, ReFrame and Time’s Up accused the studio of an “attack on gender” in which “women and girls are seen as less able than men to protect their own interests without facing ad criticism. hominem “.

However, the lawsuit also highlights a broader conflict between the old and the new culture of the entertainment industry. When Johansson’s agent, CAA co-chair Bryan Lourd, stood up for his client, it marked another unusual move. Insiders note that it protects the honor of a beloved actor, but also the value of an A-list asset that earns the agency bags of money in fees and commissions.

How much does Disney care about the negative publicity surrounding the Johansson Brawls? The actress’ legal action has surely cut ties with the studio and, after years of Marvel movies, it remains to be seen if she is working on it again. She has previously stated that she has no plans to return as Natasha Romanoff, the character she stars in. Black Widow which has graced a number of other Marvel Cinematic Universe tents as well – helping earn huge Disney profits along the way.

It’s far more important for the studio to keep Marvel Studios director Kevin Feige by their side. Feige would be upset with the fury and would have preferred a pure theatrical release for Black Widow before moving on to Disney +.

While many media analysts have noted that former Disney CEO Bob Iger would never have allowed an altercation with talent to reach the point where a star has sued the studio, the fact that the talks between Disney and Johansson have failed is testament to the changing times.

Some initiates who spoke to Filter said Hollywood’s self-centeredness and the agencies’ lucrative engagement with traditional talent deals have created myopia that is out of step with the new realities. Streaming platforms and studios that have invested money in building their own direct-to-consumer services know that fans’ only concern is choice – being able to consume content when and how they want.

“Consumers may not have much sympathy for a star who is already paid $ 20 million for the film and makes that choice. [in how they watch the film] away from them, ”said one. “How do you tell a consumer during a pandemic that he can’t see a movie because the star thinks he hasn’t made enough money with his offer and the consumer has to risk going to the movies? “

A growing cohort of industry professionals believe the initial transaction structure will become more common. PoC’s Aziz believes that if leading creators of streaming and studio content invest more in IP value at the expense of star power, it could be beneficial to others in the business.

“They can say they’re going to bet on the IP. Do we want this to happen? Of course not. But if they do, it can present an incredible opportunity for the independent world, ”he says. “It could open a door for us into the independent space to work in a truly collaborative manner with talent and create real, lasting strategies around funding and producing great content designed for profitability.”

Hollywood will be watching closely to see if Stone, Blunt – who coincidentally was offered the role of Black Widow before it was handed over to Johansson – or another star steps up and screams scandal over the day and date outings.

“If Johansson loses, the talent will continue to negotiate to the maximum from the start and deal with studios as they deal with streamers,” notes an entertainment lawyer who regularly works with studios like Disney and streaming platforms. “If she wins, it would be a paradigm shift. “


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