Black Widow roared onto the Box Office charts on its opening day. Unfortunately, by the weekend, there was a sharp decline. The initial rush was chalked up to Marvel super-fans returning to theaters. But the drop-off was due to Disney’s hybrid release. They released Black Widow both in theaters and on Disney+. Home viewers had to pay a premium of $30. For many, this was well worth it as they prefer the safety of their homes. With the Delta variant spreading, you can hardly blame them. Disney still wins as they receive money with both releases, but others around the project have lost big.
Scarlett Johansson claims in her suit that Disney has breached their contract with the Disney+ release. While the contracts are not available to the public, Wall Street Journal sources claim Johansson will lose nearly $50 million. Johansson’s attorney, John Berlinski, states Disney is only doing hybrid releases to keep stocks from plummeting.
Disney’s responded by saying the suit is completely false and distasteful due to the pandemic. But Scarllet’s team was concerned about hybrid releases before COVID. In 2019, Scarlett’s represetatives asked for reassurances that Black Widow would release not release on Disney+. Marvel Chief Counsel Dave Galluzzi told them the movie would release with the “traditional theatrical model.”
Disney is also claiming Scarlett will actually make more money with this release.
Disney Spokesperson to CNN Business
“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.”
We have a lot to learn from Johansson’s lawsuit over the coming months. Hybrid releases are likely here to stay. It gives studios more control over their product and bolsters their many streaming services. How this effects the stars and theater companies is still being hammered out. Scarlett’s fame gives her the best voice to represent other stars in the same situations. As this story develops, we’ll keep you updated.
*Update: According to Matthew Belloni, former Hollywood Reporter editor, Kevin Feige is “Angry and Embarrassed” over Disney’s handling of the lawsuit. He lobbied against the hybrid release, believing it weakened the MCU brand. Via Matt Belloni
** Emma Stone is now “weighing her options” on suing Disney. Cruella also had a hybrid release and had a weak opening weekend. Two stars going after Disney will have a massive impact on the precedent about to be set. Via The Week