Scarlett Johansson’s recent recent lawsuit filed against The Walt Disney Company had less to do with the wages she felt she was owed on her final Marvel Studios movie, Black Widow, and more about addressing a serious concern facing actors now that their movies have the potential to go to a streaming service at the same time as they reach theaters. As has been stated in Johansson’s filing, her contract promised financial bonuses if Black Widow crossed certain benchmarks at the box office. Streaming cut into those possibilities. Now, Emma Stone is taking that knowledge, and using it to her advantage.
Disney claims that it has the right to decide how their movies are going to be released, with Disney CEO Bob Chapek recently doubling down on the company’s decision to put movies like Black Widow, Jungle Cruise and Cruella on Disney+ behind a Premier Access paywall. Realizing that this is the new reality in our current state of movie-theater uncertainty, Emma Stone reportedly has negotiated royalties on at-home streams into her new deal to return for Cruella 2.
Puck reporter Matthew Belloni confirms that this is “not what Disney wants going forward,” but it seems to be what the studio has to agree to in the short term. We are in uncharted waters with regards to theatrical releases, and if the Delta variant continues to affect theatergoing for the immediate future, then deals with talent that acknowledges the possibility of streaming (and factors in financial compensation) will be on the radar for major studios.
Scarlett Johansson didn’t consider Disney+ when she negotiated her deal for Black Widow, mainly because the pandemic wasn’t an issue at the time she filmed the prequel. Also, the language in her contract guaranteed her an exclusive theatrical window, though Disney’s lawyers and Johansson’s legal team are left to argue over the definition of “exclusive,” and how that will affect the amount of money the actress is owed. Left with little recourse, Johansson sued Disney.
Emma Stone used her clout to pursue a different avenue, and it could serve as a blazed trail for her colleagues. That’s why, in a statement regarding Stone’s deal for Cruella 2, Endeavor executive chair Patrick Whitesell made this point clear:
Streaming will be a major factor in the future of entertainment, even if movie theaters buck the odds and roar back to life. It will be wise of the studios, and the talent they need to produce their product, compromise on compensation structures that incorporate the reality of Disney+, HBO Max and more. Because not every actor has the power to demand such stipulations the way that Emma Stone did, and Scarlett Johansson sadly proves that no matter how much you have done for a studio over the years, you are only as important as your next guaranteed hit.
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.