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Disney chief defends release strategy amid heated Black Widow lawsuit battle with Scarlett Johansson

Disney CEO Bob Chapek has defended the company’s strategy as it battles a lawsuit from Scarlett Johansson over Black Widow (Picture: Marvel)

Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek has defended the entertainment titan’s simultaneous cinema and Disney+ release strategy after Scarlett Johansson sued for breach of contract.

The actress, one of Marvel’s biggest stars, launched legal action last month over the streaming release of superhero movie Black Widow.

Johansson said her contract guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release and the film’s arrival on Disney+ at the same time as it was shown in cinemas deprived her of potential earnings.

Disney issued a strongly worded response, accusing the star of showing a ‘callous disregard’ to the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since then, Disney has faced criticism for its approach from both Time’s Up, which accused the company of a ‘gendered attack’ on Johansson, and the star’s agent, Bryan Lourd, who branded their statement ‘a direct attack’ on her character.

Chapek addressed the strategy in the company’s latest earnings call with investors and asserted the ‘unpredictable’ nature of the health crisis called for flexibility regarding film releases.

He said Black Widow was ‘the top-performing film at the domestic box office since the start of the pandemic’ and that he and Disney chairman, former CEO Bob Iger, agreed over the release strategy.

‘Both Bob Iger and I, along with the leaders of our creative and distribution teams, determined this was the right strategy because it would enable us to reach the broadest possible audience,’ Chapek said.

He told Wall Street analysts ‘distribution decisions are made on a film-by-film basis’, based on market conditions and consumer behaviour.

Chapek also insisted future release strategies would be based on what Disney believes ‘is in the best interest of the film and the best interest of our constituents’.

Later in the earnings call, the CEO said the compensation agreed with talent was fair, though did not mention Johansson by name.

Black Widow star Scarlett insists the film’s release on Disney+ on the same day as in cinemas went against her contract and damaged her earnings (Photo: Marvel Enterprise)

He stated: ‘We’ve figured out ways to fairly compensate our talent so that no matter what the business model is that we have to go to market with, everybody feels satisfied.

‘And I will say that since Covid has begun, we have entered into hundreds of talent arrangements with our talent and by and large they have gone very, very smoothly.

‘So we expect that that will be the case going forward.’

Elsewhere in the call, analysts were told Disney+ now has 116 million subscribers, about double the number from a year ago, and that the Walt Disney Company was now back in profit for the most recent quarter thanks to its reopened parks.

Revenue in the parks and products division surged to $4.3 billion (£3.1 billion) from $1.1 billion (£797m) a year ago.

Credit: Original article published here.

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