Disney CEO Publicly Defends ‘Black Widow’ Release as “Right Strategy”

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Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in 'Black Widow' on Disney+

Credit: Marvel Studios

When Black Widow — the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 4 — was released on July 9, 2021, Marvel fans had mixed reactions to the Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow) film.

black widow
Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: Marvel Replaces Scarlett Johansson in New Series, Benedict Cumberbatch Will Return

While many found Johansson’s only solo MCU film — which is set between the events of Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Avengers: Endgame (2018) — to be “low stakes”, others were inspired by Marvel newcomer Florence Pugh’s performance as Yelena Belova, and are looking forward to seeing more of the character in upcoming Marvel Studios projects like Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye.

scarlett johansson as natasha romanoff (left) and florence pugh as yelena belova (right) black widow on bik
Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: Marvel Pres. Kevin Feige Reportedly Livid, “Embarrassed” About ‘Black Widow’

What nobody was expecting, though, was for leading lady Johansson to sue The Walt Disney Company for $50 million, citing breach of contract. Seemingly, when the Disney+ streaming platform launched in 2019, Johansson’s camp had a clause added to her contract — Black Widow had to receive an exclusive theatrical release since much of her salary was based on box office performance.

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow
Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: All About the Red Room in Marvel’s ‘Black Widow’

Given the fact that Black Widow was released simultaneously on Disney+ Premier Access (for an additional $29.99 fee) and in theaters amid the COVID-19 pandemic — then nose-dived in spectacular fashion during its second weekend in theaters — many fans feel the shocking lawsuit may actually have some basis.

Disney, however, has called out the actress as being “callous” during the global health crisis. The company has also reportedly cut all ties with her, meaning her upcoming The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror film will not, presumably, be produced.

bob chapek onstage
Credit: Disney/Matt Stroshane, photographer

Related: Disney Lawyer Slams ‘Black Widow’ Lawsuit, It’s an “Orchestrated PR Campaign”

Now, Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek has made public comments regarding the Black Widow debacle for the first time during Disney’s Q3 earnings report call.

Chapek referred to Black Widow as the “top-performing film of 2021” and said:

We adopted a strategy for releasing the films that consisted of releases direct to Disney+ and hybrid of theatrical with “Cruella” and “Jungle Cruise” and it performed well at the box office since the start of the pandemic. We have the distribution teams determining the right strategy to enable us to reach the broadest possible audience. Just to reiterate, distribution decisions are made on a home-by-home basis based on the global market health conditions and consumer behavior. We will continue to utilize all available oceans, learn, and innovate accordingly while always do what we believe in the best interest of the film and the best interest of our constituents.”

florence pugh (left) and scarlett johansson (right) on black widow set
Credit: Screenshot via ‘Entertainment Tonight’

It is fascinating that Chapek, and seemingly Executive Chairman Bob Iger as well, are staying the course in regard to their commitment to Black Widow‘s release strategy.

Chapek did not specifically comment on the lawsuit, which could be due to the fact that litigation is ongoing.

More on Black Widow

Left to Right Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Alexei (David Harbour) and Yelena (Florence Pugh)
Credit: Marvel

The official description of the movie reads:

In Marvel Studios’ action-packed spy thriller “Black Widow,” Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down [Taskmaster and Dreykov (Ray Winstone)], Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.

Scarlett Johansson reprises her role as Natasha/Black Widow, Florence Pugh stars as Yelena, David Harbour portrays Alexei/The Red Guardian, and Rachel Weisz is Melina. “Black Widow” — the first film in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — is directed by Cate Shortland and produced by Kevin Feige.

What do you think about Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit?

You can stream Black Widow and the three series in Marvel’s Phase 4 so far — Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany’s WandaVision, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki — on Disney+ anytime.

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