For fans, the fact that when Disney finally released Black Widow, it was available on its Disney+ streaming service, alongside a release in theaters, was good news. If you weren’t up for venturing out to a movie theater, you could simply pay Disney $30–on top of your monthly subscription–for what it calls “Premier Access,” which allows you to see one of the most highly-anticipated films this year in your living room.
It was great for Disney too, since having access to the latest blockbuster is no doubt motivation for people to sign up for Disney+. It’s a pretty impressive figure considering that Premier Access sales generated the company $60 million. Considering that Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek, and its Executive Chairman, Bob Iger, have their bonuses tied to the success of Disney+, I’m sure they were pretty happy as well.
On the other hand, judging by the lawsuit from Black Widow’s star, Scarlett Johansson, the move wasn’t good for any of the cast or production crew whose salary was largely based on a back-end deal. This is where contracts offer a lower upfront payment in return for more income based on box office results.
There’s very little left behind if there is no box office or it’s restricted by other factors. This was also the case for Black Widow. It isn’t the first time that Disney has faced backlash for releasing films online alongside theatrical releases.
Earlier this year, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said the studio would release its entire slate of movies on HBO Max for the first 30 days while they are in theaters. Christopher Nolan was among the harshest critics. His film Tenant had suffered delays due to the pandemic. WarnerMedia spent $200 million to re-sign talent deals in order to make things more manageable.
Johansson claims that she attempted to negotiate new terms with the company in response to Disney’s modification of Black Widow’s release. However, the company refused to respond. That the company ignored Johansson, the star of one its most recognizable franchises would have been a problem enough.
Chapek’s lack of experience and inability to listen to Johansson are reportedly the reasons. Iger, who is Chapek’s predecessor, was known for his ability to build relationships and is reportedly mortified at how Chapek has handled this situation. Things only got worse when Disney responded.
The company stated in a statement that there is no merit to the filing. The lawsuit’s callous disregard of the devastating and long-lasting global COVID-19 epidemic is particularly saddening.”
Johansson claimed that Disney had ignored her efforts to renegotiate the deal. Instead, Disney stated that this has “significantly improved Johansson’s ability to receive additional compensation in addition to the $20 million she received up to now.”
It’s okay for reasonable people to disagree about how much is sufficient money for movie stars or filmmakers. Although it might seem easy to believe that all involved are just greedy, this doesn’t really matter. Disney seems to be urging us to believe that Johansson has a greedy nature and is motivated only by her selfish needs.
It might be true. But, honestly, that is not the point.
The thing I find most striking about this is not just the fact that Disney did not keep its word, although that appears to have been the case. It isn’t just that Disney didn’t keep its word, which is unfortunate. What is really striking is the way Disney fails to see how damaging this will be for its reputation. The lawsuit may be bad but Disney’s reaction is even worse. Let’s find out why.
Disney is the most famous company in the world, and has worked hard to establish a name for itself as “magical.” This is the story that forms the basis of everything Disney does. Disney’s masterful storytelling is the foundation of everything: movies, TV, films, and toys. It’s certainly a business. But it is also the place where we all grew up reading beloved stories.
That’s the reason Disney+ is so successful in the first place–it’s where you can go to watch movies you’ve loved your entire life, and find a constant stream of new takes on those stories. However, Disney’s reaction in this instance makes it seem cold-hearted and callous. The truth is far worse than that.
Your commitments to those you work with will tell a lot about your ability to keep them. Disney is essentially breaking its promises to Johansson and to us all by blaming her for using the pandemic to shame her. This is something that no company should do.
Publiated at Mon, 9 Aug 2021 8:03:28 +0000