Disney CEO Defends ‘Black Widow’ Release Strategy
Disney CEO Bob Chapek has gone on the record to defend the company’s decision to release Black Widow simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+. During a Q3 earnings call, Chapek stood in support of the hybrid release model, even as Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit against Disney for lost earnings due to reduced ticket sales at the box office.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Chapek also stated that Disney had “entered into hundreds of talent arrangements” besides the one with Johansson, which have “by and large gone very smoothly.” Chapek did not call out Johansson by name. He cited the Covid-19 pandemic as the main reason for the transition to streaming releases, and said that Disney values “flexibility” during these uncertain times.
“These films were conceived during a time when ... we certainly didn’t know about Covid,” Chapek said on the call with Wall Street analysts. “Just like what we've done many times before, we’ve found ways to fairly compensate our talent so that, no matter what, everyone feels satisfied.”
Johansson filed her lawsuit against Disney on the grounds that the company breached their contract on her ninth and final outing as Natasha Romanoff in the MCU. The lawsuit states that Black Widow was guaranteed an exclusive theatrical window by Marvel Entertainment, and part of her earnings would come from the film’s box office performance. However, since Black Widow was also released on Disney+ with Premier Access the same day, her suit claims the ticket sales were diminished.
Still, Chapek is firm in his view that Black Widow’s unconventional release model was the right call. “Both Bob Iger and I determined this was the right strategy. And, just to reiterate, distribution decisions are made on a film-by-film basis. We will continue to utilize all options going forward.”