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In light of the ongoing legal battle between Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson and Disney, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the standards for talent deals are undergoing a “reset,” and future agreements will need to take into account the changes to movie release windows accelerated by the pandemic.
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference on Tuesday, Chapek did not explicitly mention Johansson or her lawsuit but referred to deals “cut three or four years ago” on films made during that time that got launched during the middle of the pandemic.
“We’ve got a deal that’s conceived under a certain set of conditions that actually results in a movie that’s being released in a completely different set, so there’s a bit of a reset that’s going on right now, and ultimately we’ll think about that as we do our future talent deals and plan for that and make sure that that’s incorporated,” Chapek said. “But right now, we’ve got sort of this middle position where we’re trying to do right by the talent. I think the talent’s trying to do right by us, and we’re just sort of figuring out our way to bridge the gap.”
Johansson’s lawsuit, first filed in late July, alleged that Disney breached her contract when it released Black Widow on Disney+, thereby impacting their agreement for the film to have a wide theatrical release and diminishing the actress’ box office-based compensation. Disney has countered that it fulfilled its theatrical obligation by releasing Black Widow on 9,000 screens in the U.S. and has said the film outgrossed other Marvel movies.
The high-profile dispute, which has invoked sharply worded statements from both camps, is still ongoing, but Disney hasn’t lost its footing in other talent agreements: Last month, Disney secured deals with Emma Stone for Cruella 2 and Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt for Jungle Cruise 2.
At the investor conference, Chapek said talent continued to be the company’s “most important asset” but defended the company’s talent compensation. “As we always have, we will compensate them fairly, per the terms of the contracts that they agreed to us with,” he said.
As for the company’s streaming offerings, the Disney CEO said he was “bullish and confident” about long-term subscriber growth and expected to see Q4 show an increase in the “low, single-digit millions of subscribers” for Disney+ compared to the previous quarter, despite production delays caused by the delta variant.
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