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SAG President Slams Disney Over Black Widow Lawsuit Response

SAG-AFTRA's president Gabrielle Carteris has slammed Disney for their response to Scarlett Johansson's lawsuit over the release of Black Widow. After multiple delays due to the pandemic, Johansson's swan-song to the role she has played since 2010's Iron Man 2was finally released on July 9 both in theaters and on Disney+ via Premier Access. Despite a strong opening weekend, Black Widow's box-office revenue declined significantly in its second weekend, in part due to the ready availability of the film to stream.

Three weeks later on July 29, Johansson filed a lawsuit concerning Black Widow's release in Los Angeles Superior Court. The lawsuit cites a breach of contract claiming that it specified an exclusive theatrical release for Black Widow, with the actress set to receive a bonus commission based on box-office performance. Johansson and her team allege that Disney never reached out to them to renegotiate her contract and that the hybrid-release affected its box-office performance, resulting in a $50 million loss of earnings. In response to the lawsuit, Disney accused the actress, who had been a keystone in the Avengers franchise, of callously disregarding the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to Disney's accusations, many organizations such as Women in Film and Time's Up claimed that the company were resorting to defamation of Johansson's character simply for defending her contractual rights.

Related: What Scarlett Johansson's Lawsuit Means For Disney, Marvel & Hollywood/Streaming

Now Carteris, who has served as SAG-AFTRA's president since 2016, has also leant her support to Johansson.  Speaking to DeadlineCarteris slated Disney by saying that the company "should be ashamed of themselves for resorting to tired tactics of gender-shaming and bullying." The union chief also added that the company's attempt to play the victim in the situation does not hold water as "Disney and other content companies are doing very well and can certainly live up to their obligations to compensate the performers whose art and artistry are responsible for the corporation’s profits." Read Carteris' full statement below:

“Disney should be ashamed of themselves for resorting to tired tactics of gender-shaming and bullying. Actors must be compensated for their work according to their contracts. Scarlett Johansson is shining a white-hot spotlight on the improper shifts in compensation that companies are attempting to slip by talent as distribution models change. Nobody in any field of work should fall victim to surprise reductions in expected compensation. It is unreasonable and unjust. Disney and other content companies are doing very well and can certainly live up to their obligations to compensate the performers whose art and artistry are responsible for the corporation’s profits. Additionally, we are deeply concerned by the gendered tone of Disney’s criticism of Ms. Johansson. Women are not ‘callous’ when they stand up and fight for fair pay – they are leaders and champions for economic justice. Women have been victimized by pay inequity for decades, and they have been further victimized by comments like those in Disney’s press statements. These sorts of attacks have no place in our society and SAG-AFTRA will continue to defend our members from all forms of bias.”

Carteris is just one of many in Hollywood who has come out in support of Johansson. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige is said to be furious with Disney over their handling of the situation, believing that they should make things right with the actress who, until recently, was one of their biggest stars. Likewise, Blumhouse founder, Jason Blum has called Johansson 'brave', adding that she is leading what he believes to be a much larger fight against attempts by Disney and other studios to develop an unsustainable model and redefine the working relationships between themselves and their talent. This sentiment is seemingly shared by Carteris, as evidenced by her accusation that Disney are trying to make "improper shifts in compensation … [and] are attempting to slip [them] by talent as distribution models change."

Studios currently prefer day-and-date releases as cinema-attendance levels are still significantly less than pre-pandemic levels, a particularly transparent tactic as they are able to keep all revenue from streaming releases, whereas they split revenue with theaters for theatrical releases. However, there is growing pushback from stars like Johansson. Emma Stone is said to be considering a similar lawsuit over the release of Cruella in May while Emily Blunt and John Krasinskiare in reportedly in a dispute with Paramount over the studio's decision to cut the 45 day theatrical release of A Quiet Place: Part 2 short in favor of making it available to stream on Paramount+.

It was pushback from talent against Warner Bros' decision to make all of their 2021 releases fit a hybrid model, releasing on HBO Max to those subscribed to the ad-free version, that led to the studio buying out stars' contracts as a form of compensation to counter-balance the loss of income. Disney, however, has made no such offer to its talent. With SAG-AFTRA throwing its weight behind its members, though, it seems the battle over day-and-date releases, like that of Black Widowis only set to continue and it will interesting to see where the pieces fall in the coming months.

More: Scarlett Johansson's Lawsuit Has Hurt Disney (Even If It Wins)

Source: Deadline

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