Coincidentally, this morning at Goldman Sachs’ 30th Annual Communacopia Conference, Disney CEO Bob Chapek was asked about compensation for Hollywood talent in the wake of the upheaval of long-standing distribution models and the benefits of the studio in terms of being a place this talent wants to work in a direct-to-consumer market.
This question to the confab following an ongoing heated lawsuit with Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson, who sued Disney for loss of money over the theatrical release of PVOD Day and Date on Disney +, as well as the studio that repairs with Cruel star Emma Stone for a sequel.
Replied Chapek, “Disney has a long history of having very symbiotic and cooperative arrangements with talent and we will continue to do so.”
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He added, without naming names: “The world is certainly changing, and future talent contracts will have to reflect the fact that the world is changing.
“We are in a time when movies were viewed with a common understanding of what the world would be like, because frankly, that hadn’t changed much,” he said.
“Remember, these movies were made three or four years ago; these agreements were made three or four years ago. Then they are launched in the midst of a global pandemic where this pandemic itself is accelerating a second dynamic, which is this change in consumer behavior. So we’re sort of putting a square peg in a round hole right now where we have a deal designed under a certain set of conditions, which actually results in a movie coming out under a completely different set of conditions.
He added: “So there is a bit of rest right now. Ultimately, we’ll think about it as we do our future talent contracts and plan for that and make sure it’s incorporated. But right now we have that kind of middle position, where we try to do well through talent, I think talent tries to do well through us, and we’re just looking for our way to bridge the gap. At the end of the day, we believe our talent is our most important asset, and we will continue to believe this, and as we always have, we will compensate them fairly according to the terms of the contract with which they have agreed to us.
Disney’s most recent maneuver in Johansson’s lawsuit saw the studio trying to push the legal battle into confidential arbitration, one that actress John Berlinski’s attorney criticized. Previously, following Johansson’s legal deposit, the studio had publicly criticized her, exclaiming through a spokesperson, “There is no merit in this deposit. The lawsuit is particularly sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Disney has fully honored Ms. Johansson’s contract and, moreover, the release of Black Widow on Disney + with Premier Access has dramatically improved her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $ 20 million she has received to date. The Oscar-nominated double’s agent slammed Disney for attacking Johansson’s character, leaving talent out of the studio’s streaming equation.