Johansson vs Disney: how will the entertainment world change?

Johansson vs Disney: how will the entertainment world change?

Johansson vs Disney

During the pandemic, streaming services were a breath of fresh air for the world of cinema. With cinemas obviously closed, home entertainment platforms have proved to be a boon for productions, which when they did not want to wait as long as possible for a theatrical release hoping for a rapid extinction of the pandemic, they chose to land on streaming services. . A decision that now has to deal with the gradual reopening of cinemas, between green passes and precautionary limitations, which becomes the voice of a never dormant desire to return from normality, even at work, considering the enormous difficulties experienced by the sector during the last two years. However, there are some steps to be taken, not least as set in motion by the recent lawsuit between Scarlett Johansson and Disney, linked precisely to this transitory passage.

Black Widow, the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Johnasson in the role by Natasha Romanoff, was released in early July, in hybrid form, with an early cinema debut and availability, via Vip Access, on Disney + two days later. Certainly not a new formula, previously used by the entertainment giant for Mulan and Raja and the last dragon, also repeated in these days for Jungle Cruise. Normal practice, one might say, considering how the stringent restrictions still in force can push part of the public to avoid overcrowded cinemas, preferring the safety of their own living room.

So why the beautiful Scarlett has turned furious against Disney ? For money, of course.

How entertainment rules change

The contract between the actress and Disney provided a series of bonuses based on the performance of her latest adventure as a Black Widow at the box office, a result that he said he would be hampered by the major's decision to immediately bring Black Widow to Disney +. Considering that for Johansson this was the last experience within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was understandable that she wanted to monetize her presence to the maximum, and to tell her the choice of Disney cost her the figure of fifty million dollars. . Dizzying figures, in fact, which can motivate this persistence. A vision also supported by the MCU's deus ex machina, Kevin Feige, who has always declared himself opposed to this hybrid room-streaming operation.

In all this, Disney has certainly not quietly taken the blow, revealing that his decision brought another 20 million dollars into the actress's pockets (which is not the hoped-for 50, not a small difference), but above all that everything took place according to the provisions of the contracts. A nice family quarrel, in short, which will see the American classrooms as a battleground for the umpteenth evolutionary step in the world of entertainment. In fact, it is difficult not to imagine that this gesture by Johansson is only the first of a series of positions taken by personalities from the entertainment world, who will also want to review their contracts in order to have a say, and above all understand how to monetize. , from this new way of spreading films. No wonder Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt also wanted to use this gesture by their colleague to revise their earnings based on the results of Jungle Cruise, which followed the same path as Black Widow. And there are already rumors that Johansson could be imitated not only by Blunt, but also by Emma Stone, protagonist of Cruella.

Going beyond the mere economic aspect, this court case shows us again how the potential of streaming are a breaking point for the entertainment world. The fear expressed by the film purists, led by Pedro Almodovar, who in 2017 in Cannes boycotted Okja, a Netflix production guilty of not having had access to the cinema but of being a purely streaming product, had been an alarm signal, a first sign of how this slow change in the use of contents could threaten a tradition considered sacred. The pandemic, also in this area, has made its weight felt, accelerating by necessity a process that is perhaps inevitable, but which now, in this attempt to return to the status quo ante, becomes a problem to be managed.

Non easy to solve, moreover. As much as we want to resume living our lives, it is foreseeable that there will still be people who will be afraid to return to crowded places, such as cinemas, and today it is not even legitimate to consider us out of this anomalous situation, preventing us from averting future lockdowns. or preventive closures. This is why it is foreseeable that this hybrid distribution practice will consolidate, especially at Disney, which has a proprietary streaming platform at its disposal, following a practice that the major sees useful for increasing its revenues.

E ' wrong? Cynically, absolutely not. It is more than legitimate for a company to look for ways that allow it to maximize its earnings, and believing that there is an ethics that guides a giant like Disney towards conduct that is inclusive of the problems of others is utopian. If to make more money it is enough to distribute your film on Disney +, to the detriment of the profits of the cinema, why should the major be scrupulous? It's a business, and everyone plays their game. Obviously, as in the case in question, everything must be in line with the provisions of the contractual agreements. It would be more interesting to ask Disney why in his films there are still evident cases of gender gap, with unequal pay between actors and actresses, but since that is not about the mass it is a topic that is quietly left on the sidelines.

Economic revolution (but not only…)

Easier for reactions to occur when vile money comes into play. Touched directly in the wallet, the actors in the first place could begin to understand how their cachets need to be revised and adapted to the new mechanics. Ironic, if we think that forty years ago Alec Guinness had a similar intuition, an actor of the then old guard who, as a fee for playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, requested a percentage of the film's royalties as a clause. Johansson is perhaps the first actress to realize how her world is changing, and if her cause is based on a breach of contract, it is also the first demonstration of how there is an awareness that the logic of entertainment is changing, awareness that it is no coincidence that it was the first to reach the agents of the stars, who are paid at percentages on the cachets of their clients. A maneuver like Disney's, therefore, is not only a damage for the actors, but for all the professionals that gravitate around them, which is why Johansson's agent, Bryan Lourd, is particularly angry with Disney, sniffing out a dangerous previous.

If Disney, and other entertainment giants, are adapting their distribution paradigm, the most logical consequence is that the whole system understands that the rules of the game have changed and that we are adapting. A mental step that concerns actors and agents, but also distributors and exhibitors of cinemas, who in the face of these situations must understand how to react. Whether it is a question of revising the contractual clauses or offering viewers modern rooms that live up to expectations, considering that some films such as the awaited Dune, by their nature, deserve a vision on the big screen and with top-level audio systems.

Johansson's gesture, born for reasons that are anything but altruistic, is not only the tip of the iceberg, yet another demonstration of how the affirmation of streaming is increasingly an element of break with the old way of understanding cinema, both from the production side and from that of pure enjoyment of the spectators. Net of how this lawsuit will end (in these parts we are betting on a plea bargain, and friends as before), once again we are witnessing the inability of the old way of understanding cinema to adapt to the new rules of the game.

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