Black Widow Creates Conflict Amid Theater Decline


   Theaters and Marvel face a storm with Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney, with the potential to change current cinemas. The actress for Natasha Romanoff and star of the new movie Black Widow sued Disney on July 29th for allegedly breaking her movie contract. 

   The movie was released simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+, while Johansson’s contract stated there would be a theatrical release before it was placed on the streaming service. The actress’ salary was directly tied to box office profits, and not only did the duo release deter potential moviegoers, but according to The Wall Street Journal, it cost Johansson $50 million in bonuses.  

   According to Film Club President Isabel Tongson, this is not the first time film studios have broken contracts with actors.

   Tongson has heard of other actresses facing the same situation as Johansson: Emma Stone with Cruella and Natalie Portman with Thor. According to ScreenRant, Cruella premiered at theaters and on Disney+ on May 28, and similar to Black Widow, box office numbers were low. Stone was rumored to be weighing her options with Disney. Actress Emily Blunt is also looking into legal choices, according to, as The Jungle Cruise had a hybrid release — something that happened with The Quiet Place Part II, in which she sought financial compensation for. According to Vanity Fair, Natalie Portman also had difficulties working with Disney on the Thor movies. Johansson isn’t alone, and her move has opened up a possibility for other actors facing the same issues.

   English teacher Jeff Wilson, a Marvel fan of many years, is intrigued to see the results. 

   “I think if she has a contract and Disney played dirty that she deserves the money that she’s owed,” Wilson said. “I’d like to see how it plays out.” 

   He believes that actors should be paid for their work, especially if they have done what they have been contracted to do.

   Johansson’s lawsuit and potential others from actors following suit may paint the future of movies and streaming services in a different light. Since the start of the pandemic, streaming services have taken the spotlight as many people feel uncomfortable and unsafe being outside. However, this leaves actors with contracts tied to the box office along with theaters to reconsider. Because of COVID-19, the amount of movie-goers over the years has decreased. According to CNBC, the ticket sales in 2020 fell 80%, and it was the lowest amount for national box offices in virtually 40 years.

   “Streaming services are trying — production companies, in general — are trying to come up with different revenue streams because people are just kind of afraid to go out,” Wilson said. “So, as an added revenue stream, as a way to try to recoup some of their money, I think it’s probably a good idea.”

   Tongson has also seen the decline of moviegoers since the pandemic. 

   “I know HBO was taking that huge job just releasing films on their streaming services which is crazy,” Tongson said. “And if the streaming services keep up with that, then the movie theaters are essentially dying out.” 

   Tongson herself believes films are meant to be experienced in theatres, and while streaming services are more convenient, they do not provide the same experience as movie theatres. She hopes movie theatres are not further negatively affected by the pandemic. Wilson agrees, choosing to attend theaters over watching streaming services like Disney+. He loves to show up early with popcorn to watch the trailers before the actual film. 

   “I would like to think that they will,” Wilson said. “And I like to think that at some point we all get back to some semblance of normal and that we are unafraid to go be entertained.”