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Friday, July 12, 2024

ScarJo v. Disney Lawsuit Turns Bloody: Studios No Longer the Only Hands That Feed


Last month, Marvel mainstay Scarlett Johansson filed suit against Disney – taking the company to task over what the actress believes was a breach of contract.

According to her lawsuit, Johansson is due to lose upwards of $50 million she would have gained had her initial “Black Widow” contract remained unviolated. Disney’s decision to release the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest entry simultaneously in theaters and on Disney Plus inspired Johansson to risk her reputation to fight for what she believes she’s owed.

And risk it, she sure did. A brutal “clapback” from Disney here, a vote of solidarity from Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige there, and suddenly Johansson has become embroiled in a verbal melee that speaks to a greater issue emerging in Today’s Hollywood.

Fresh off rave reviews but a slight underperformance at the box office, “The Suicide Squad” director James Gunn (in an interview with Variety) declared “movies last because they’re seen on TV.” Sentiment paired with clear understanding that in the age of the COVID-inspired “day and date” rollout, measurement of a film’s exact success involves many more variables than ever before.

“I think that Disney+ cannibalized the box office in likely a significant way, especially with repeat viewing,” Matt Belloni, a longtime Hollywood Commenter, told Entertainment Weekly.

Disney Plus and HBO Max are just a couple of streaming services paving the way for what’s sure to be mightily involved in the future of cinemas. Though Disney’s litigation tactics paint Johansson an ungrateful and inconsiderate martyr, it’s A-listers like her who audiences pay to see – on screens both big and small.

Anyone can become a moviegoer, but above-marquee stars are few and far between. Therefore, it would behoove Disney – or any other company involved in vicious attempts to bury their own – to not take their own assets for granted. That same strength at the box office said performers provide to the hands that were once begging to feed them is also built into their personal strength of character. 

So don’t be surprised when those whose silence would be your spirit animal don’t go quietly. Nor when there’s a narrow pool of next-generation talent to choose from to front the blockbuster movies of tomorrow. Because if this is how you treated their heroes, then what will convince them to be yours?

Michael J. Reistetter
Michael J. Reistetter
Mike Reistetter, former Editor in Chief, is now a guest contributor to The Messenger Papers. Mike's current career in film production allows for his unique outlook on entertainment writing. Mike has won second place in "Best Editorials" at the New York Press Association 2022 Better Newspaper Contest.