Disney CEO Addresses Talent Deals Amid Scarlett Johansson Lawsuit

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on, the world of blockbuster movies has had to evolve in some unexpected ways, allowing fans to see highly-anticipated films in the method they're most comfortable with. In some cases, this has involved a hybrid release of having a film available both in theaters and on streaming, something that The Walt Disney Company has done with several of its recent films, releasing them through Disney+'s paid Premier Access tier. Among them is Marvel's Black Widow, which has remained in the conversation following a recent lawsuit from star Scarlett Johansson, alleging that the company breached her contract with regards to potential theatrical profits. During Disney's recently quarterly call with investors, company CEO Bob Chapek revealed that the company has entered into "hundreds" of new deals with their talent reflecting the circumstances of the pandemic.

"These films were really conceived under a time when we did not know what was going to be happening with consumer behavior three or four years later, and certainly didn't know about COVID at the time," Chapek explained. "So, we're dealing under a different sort of set of conditions than we thought. What I will say is that, just like we've done many times before as the business has evolved and transformed, 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've entered into hundreds of talented arrangements with our talent, and by and large, they've gone very, very smoothly. So we expect that that would be the case going forward."

"Certainly, this is a time of anxiety in the marketplace," Chapek continued. "A lot has changed recently, and again, these films that we're releasing right now are imagined under a completely different environment, than unfortunately the fate has delivered us. But we're trying to do the best thing for all our constituents, and make sure that you know everybody who's in the value chain, if you will, feels like they're having their contractual commitments [reflected], both from a distribution and a compensation standpoint."

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It's unclear exactly what the extent of these new deals are, especially after rumors swirled that Cruella star Emma Stone was contemplating her options in the wake of Johansson's lawsuit. With the company's two upcoming releases — Free Guy and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Ringssticking to a 45-day exclusive theatrical window, it remains to be seen what the case will be for future releases.