Disney sued by Scarlett Johansson over Black Widow's streaming release

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CNET 30 July, 2021 - 01:15pm 43 views

Why is Scarlett Johansson suing Disney plus?

Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney for breach of contract after it streamed her superhero film Black Widow at the same time as its cinema release. ... In response, Disney said it had "fully complied" with her contract and that her case had "no merit whatsoever". BBC NewsScarlett Johansson sues Disney over streaming of Black Widow

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Scarlett Johansson sues Disney over 'Black Widow' streaming release

Good Morning America 30 July, 2021 - 02:10pm

Scarlett Johansson, star of the latest Marvel movie “Black Widow,” filed a lawsuit Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Disney, alleging her contract was breached when the media giant released the film on its Disney+ streaming service at the same time as its theatrical debut.

Ms. Johansson said in the suit that her agreement with Disney’s Marvel Entertainment guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release, and her salary was based in large part on the box-office performance of the film.

“Disney intentionally induced Marvel’s breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel,” the suit said.

A Disney spokesman said Ms. Johansson’s suit had no merit and is “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.” The company said it “fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20 million she has received to date.”

The suit could be a bellwether for the entertainment industry. Major media companies are giving priority to their streaming services in pursuit of growth, and are increasingly putting their high-value content on those platforms. Those changes have significant financial implications for actors and producers, who want to ensure that growth in streaming doesn’t come at their expense.

“This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts,” said John Berlinski, an attorney at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP who represents Ms. Johansson.

The suit also notes that annual bonuses for Disney Chairman Robert Iger and Chief Executive Bob Chapek are tied to the performance of Disney+ and cites that as further motivation for putting “Black Widow” on the service. Disney disclosed in its 2021 proxy that Messrs Iger and Chapek both received bonuses for the success of Disney+. “In short, the message to—and from— Disney’s top management was clear: increase Disney+ subscribers, never mind your contractual promises, and you will be rewarded,” the suit said.

Disney began releasing movies simultaneously on Disney+ and in theaters partly because of the Covid-19 pandemic, when theaters were closed or at limited capacity, and partly to boost its nascent service. AT&T Inc.’s WarnerMedia, which operates the HBO Max streaming service, is following a similar strategy for its entire 2021 slate of Warner Bros. movies. Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal has since followed suit, with the release of “The Boss Baby: Family Business” both in theaters and on its Peacock streaming service.

WarnerMedia chose to renegotiate many of its talent contracts that, like Ms. Johansson’s deal with Marvel, were tied to box-office performance. Warner Bros. paid more than $200 million to talent as part of the amended agreements.

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Ms. Johansson has been an integral part of the Marvel universe since appearing as Black Widow in 2010’s “Iron Man 2.” Her presence has grown significantly since then as a member of the Avengers squad of heroes, alongside Captain America and the Incredible Hulk. Her character died in the 2019 blockbuster “Avengers: Endgame,” and the spinoff film in theaters now takes place before the events of that movie.

According to the complaint, Ms. Johansson’s representatives sought to renegotiate her contract after learning of the dual-release strategy for “Black Widow,” which she has said is her ninth and last Marvel movie. Disney and Marvel were unresponsive, the suit said.

The decision to put the movie on Disney+ is projected to cost Ms. Johansson more than $50 million, a person familiar with details of her contract claimed.

Even before the pandemic, Ms. Johansson was concerned that “Black Widow” could end up on Disney+ as part of its wide release. In 2019, Ms. Johansson’s representatives reached out to Marvel seeking assurance that “Black Widow” would have a theatrical-only release, according to the complaint. In a March 2019 email included in the suit, Marvel Chief Counsel Dave Galluzzi said the release would be according to a traditional theatrical model, adding, “We understand that should the plan change, we would need to discuss this with you and come to an understanding as the deal is based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses.”

During its July 9 opening weekend, “Black Widow” grossed $80 million at the domestic box office and $78 million overseas, and generated another $60 million from $30 at-home purchases on Disney+. It was the first time Disney broke out a film’s streaming performance in such detail. Disney shares ticked upward on the news that Monday.

The movie’s theatrical performance fell in the subsequent days more sharply than most Marvel films. Some analysts and executives in Hollywood questioned whether making the movie easy to watch at home was hurting box-office results. The National Association of Theatre Owners, a lobbying group for exhibitors, called the performance “disappointing and anomalous,” and proof that exclusive theatrical releases were the most profitable approach.

Internally, some executives at Disney worried that an at-home release would tarnish the overall appeal of the Marvel brand, which has produced the biggest offerings in Hollywood over the past several years.

Disney’s Marvel Studios has had unprecedented success in modern-day Hollywood, releasing 24 titles that regularly collect more than $1 billion in global ticket sales.

The movies in turn activate a cycle of revenue from toy sales to theme-park attractions. As the franchise has grown, it has become a magnet for big stars, who sign up to portray the heroes and villains of Marvel movies and shows.

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Write to Joe Flint at joe.flint@wsj.com and Erich Schwartzel at erich.schwartzel@wsj.com

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Appeared in the July 30, 2021, print edition as 'Johansson Sues Disney Over Marvel Film Release.'

Scarlett Johansson sues Disney for releasing ‘Black Widow’ in theaters and on Disney+

Yahoo Entertainment 30 July, 2021 - 02:10pm

At issue is the way that Disney ultimately chose to release the movie. Originally scheduled to open exclusively in theaters in May 2020, Black Widow was repeatedly delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Eventually, the studio made the decision to pursue a hybrid release, opening the massively-budgeted movie in multiplexes the same day it premiered on the Disney+ streaming as a Premier Access title. (Premier Access films are available to Disney+ subscribers for an extra $29.99 surchage.)

"Disney intentionally induced Marvel’s breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel," the lawsuit states. Sources told the Journal that the actress could stand to lose upwards of $50 million in bonuses over the move.

In a statement, Disney said there was "no merit whatsoever to this filing."

"The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic," the company continued. "Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson's contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20 million she has received to date."

Notably, Marvel's next two movies, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals, will open only in theaters on Sept. 3 and Nov. 5 respectively. (Spider-Man: No Way Home, which is made in collaboration with Sony Pictures, will also be a theatrical exclusive when it arrives on Dec. 17.) But with the continued success of Marvel Cinematic Universe streaming shows like WandaVision and Loki, the future of the Marvel multiverse will inevitably encompass screens of all sizes. 

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Johansson says she was promised an exclusive theatrical release, and by putting the movie on the streaming platform, Disney and Marvel breached her contract.

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The Walt Disney Company clapped back at “Black Widow” star Scarlett Johansson, slamming the actress’ breach of contract lawsuit for showing “callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” In a court filing on Thursday, Johansson said Disney’s decision to send the Marvel movie to Disney Plus at the same […]

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HBO returns to Dish's lineup after a protracted absence | Engadget

Bleeding Cool News 30 July, 2021 - 01:15am

When Dish removed HBO and Cinemax channels, it accused then-parent AT&T of using HBO as an "economic weapon." At that time, HBO was only a straight cable station, but AT&T launched HBO Max as a Netflix-like streaming service in July of 2019. With the situation now resolved, Dish becomes the last major pay TV distributor to add HBO Max to its lineup. 

The resolution follows a major shakeup with HBO's parent, WarnerMedia. In May 2021, AT&T announced that it was spinning off that division and merging it with Discovery in a $43 billion deal. That effectively removed a conflict of interest as AT&T is a direct competitor to Dish in the satellite video service provider space. The parties haven't disclosed the terms of the new agreement. 

With an accord now in pace, Dish customers get a free 10-day free of HBO and Cinemax from Aug. 6-15. Dish users can subscribe to the HBO Max ad-free plan for $12 rather than the regular price of $15 per month for up to 12 months if they act before Oct. 27, 2021. They'll get HBO Max access on supported devices like iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV, along with live channels including HBO, HBO Family and HBO Signature. Dish TV customers can also get Cinemax for $10 per month.

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