As the era of streaming media remakes the face of TV and film, one of the big questions has become how big studios can supply their most popular movies to their own streaming services, without losing box office revenue or alienating talent. So far, the track record has been spotty, but maybe no attempt has turned out worse than Disney's with Black Widow, which debuted day-and-date on Disney+, got heavily pirated around the world, disappointed at the box office, and then got the studio sued by lead actor Scarlett Johansson, who alleged that the day-and-date digital release breached her contract.
Disney has fired back with a sharp retort of their own, seemingly guaranteeing that the suit will go to court. Meanwhile, other interested parties, including Netflix's Ted Sarandos, have been monitoring the situation closely.
At one point, pressed by Swisher, Sarandos ventured a glimpse of his take on the big bucks legal battle between Disney and Black Widow's Scarlett Johansson over hybrid release windows and profit participation.
"I watch these things as a spectator I would have said this or said that," Sarandos said during the Code Conference. "I'm fortunate that we have not been in those shoes."
Unsurprisingly, Sarandos -- who is no stranger to fights with big studios himself -- seemed to side with Johansson. After all, she is one of the world's biggest stars, and Netflix is looking to get into business with every big name they can, creating original content that will appeal to the broadest possible audience.
"Talent has to be respected and compensated," he said, offering nothing more enticing than that, but making his point clear.
Traditional studios, who felt pressure to move to day-and-date releases as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, have struggled to fine-tune the details of their approach. While ViacomCBS has said that a day and date release actually helped the box office success of PAW Patrol: The Movie, Disney and Warner Bros. have missed projections on big-budget movies like Black Widow and The Suicide Squad, with many observers offering the day-and-date release as an explanation. Warner, who moved all of their 2021 theatrical release to a day-and-date HBO Max release, have also struggled with filmmakers and production partners unhappy with the move -- most notably Dune co-financiers Legendary Entertainment, and The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan, whose next film will now be distributed through Universal.