Scarlett Johansson’s ongoing dispute with Disney over the handling of Black Widow‘s release has certainly generated a lot of discussion, from fellow actors to other members of the MCU. With the case potentially representing a landmark in how stars negotiates with studios over their back-end from theatrical and streaming releases, it’s attracted commentary from industry heads, including Netflix boss Ted Sarandos.
Speaking at the Code Conference this week, Sarandos gave his reasonably diplomatic response to questions from Kara Swisher about the lawsuit, commenting as so:
“I watch these things as a spectator I would have said this or said that. I’m fortunate that we have not been in those shoes…talent has to be respected and compensated.”
While it’s understandable that the CEO wouldn’t get too drawn on his opinion of Disney, his support for “talent” reiterates how much appeal Netflix carries for attracting stars with major contracts to work exclusively for the company. Given the difficulties studios have faced with day-and-date strategies during the pandemic, it’s becoming more apparent that the visibility of big-budget titles on platforms such as Disney+ and HBO Max hasn’t been a great success.
The Mouse House also appear to be moving away from the VOD and cinema model introduced since 2020, with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Eternals all getting exclusive in-theater premieres before a short wait to debut online. Furthermore, the recently installed Disney CEO Bob Chapek has addressed the controversy as being the result of a transitional period for their business since COVID-19 hit, and reiterated his commitment to respecting talent.
To this end, it’s probably reasonable to assume that Scarlett Johansson’s legal team will be able to reach some kind of deal with the corporation over Black Widow, and that there won’t be long-term bad blood between them. For Sarandos and Netflix, though, the relationship between high-profile actors, directors, and producers with their traditional Hollywood employers, will likely be closely monitored for opportunities to target them with more favorable deals.