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18 Aug, 18 tweets, 11 min read
Inside this week’s cover story:

What Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ Legal Battle Means for the Future of Hollywood
The birth of the subscription streaming platform Disney Plus is a good marker for the transition that’s spurred a wholesale realignment of film and TV operations.
As the aftershocks spread across the industry, the benchmarks of success have been radically altered. But talent compensation packages didn’t keep pace.
“It’s indicative of a larger struggle taking place in our business as talent shifts from one way of getting paid to another,” says Jason Blum.
In the streaming era, back-end revenue streams are slowing to a trickle while the salary demands of A-list actors are reaching astronomical heights.
Now, talent is grabbing as much as possible on the front end because the traditional route to after-market profits is disappearing as conglomerates build content war chests to feed global platforms.
At stake is the future of how Hollywood stars negotiate their salaries. Already, studio insiders have long griped, movie stars were demanding too much, as the ability to attract crowds shifted from charismatic actors to IP like Marvel or DC Comics.
Just look at how many fans went to see “Dolittle” with Robert Downey Jr. out of Iron Man’s suit last year.
Johansson’s court filing exposes the creative community’s roiling undercurrents of fear and uncertainty. But the way the drama has unfolded in public reflects the bare-knuckles business environment emerging as the industry reels from whipsaw revamping.
Johansson’s team was aghast, after the news broke, when Disney blasted back with an edgy statement that shattered industry decorum by revealing the star’s $20 million upfront salary.
Sources say that Johansson’s representatives were simply asked to wait a few weeks more to see how “Black Widow” performed at the box office and on Disney Plus.
How this plays out is making a statement for Disney's post-Bob Iger era under CEO Bob Chapek. Industry sources note that in the past, a dispute like this would have been settled quietly with a big check.
Chapek supporters within the studio push back at any suggestion that he doesn’t value artistic talent. They note that Disney has signed long-term deals with the likes of #BlackPanther director Ryan Coogler and #WandaVision head writer Jac Schaeffer.
Johansson has maintained that Disney’s corporate interest in supporting Disney Plus with high-wattage new programming shouldn’t come at the expense of her box office bonuses for #BlackWidow.
Johansson gets a cut of the Disney Plus Premiere Access revenue, but a significant point of her complaint is that MCU titles generate repeat theatrical business among Marvel fans. That’s impossible if viewers can download the title for unlimited viewings.
The #BlackWidow star’s complaint also name-checks Chapek and Iger, noting their annual compensation packages as motivation for channeling resources to Disney Plus despite the studio’s contractual commitments to talent.
Legal observers say the case could turn on whether a jury believes Disney was acting in good faith as a partner to Johansson and whether it disregarded the possibility of limiting its box office revenue and thereby, her chance to reach bonus thresholds.
There’s a growing sense that the old way of making money for A-list talent has atomized.

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