News Round Up: Black Widow Lawsuit, French Cinemas Suffering, SVOD & AVOD Numbers Increasing.
Film Industry News Weekly Digest, Sunday August 1st
Scarlett Johansson Files Lawsuit Against Disney Over ‘Black Widow’ Release
WarnerMedia and Warner Bros. have reportedly shelled out as much as $200 million to pay a parade of talent whose films have opened, or are scheduled to open, at the same time and on HBO Max...Johansson’s deal with Marvel likely has an arbitration clause, but she has no direct deal with Disney, so her hope is that a tortious interference claim will stick in open court.https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/business/business-news/scarlett-johansson-disney-lawsuit-1234990249/
‘Black Widow’ Arrives Early on Digital Aug. 10 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray Disc/DVD Sept. 14
The retail release will be available in Ultra HD and immersive Dolby Atmos audio, along with never-before-seen bonus footage, including nine deleted scenes, bloopers and featurettes.https://www.mediaplaynews.com/black-widow-arrives-early-on-digital-aug-10-and-4k-ultra-hd-blu-ray-disc-dvd-sept-14/
Disney Fires Back at Scarlett Johansson, Calls ‘Black Widow’ Lawsuit ‘Sad and Distressing’
The company went on to state that the star has already received $20 million for her work and argued that “the release of ‘Black Widow’ on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.”
Given that many Marvel movies top $1 billion at the worldwide box office, “Black Widow” is on pace to become one of the company’s lowest-grossing releases.https://variety.com/2021/film/news/disney-scarlett-johansson-black-widow-lawsuit-response-pandemic-1235030837/
Disney Strikes Back Over Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ Lawsuit, Reveals Her $20 Million Payday – UpdateThe claims are that the media conglomerate intentionally interfered with its Marvel subsidiary’s contract with Johansson and induced Marvel to breach it. It cites a provision of her contract spelling out that there would be a “wide theatrical release of the Picture i.e., no less than 1,500 screens.” The lawsuit contends that both parties understood that meant it “would initially be released exclusively in movie theatres, and that it would remain exclusively in movie theaters for a period of between approximately 90 and 120,” the industry standard in 2019, when Johansson’s agreement was finalized.” When Johansson’s representatives attempted to negotiate with Marvel after the day-and-date plans for Black Widow were announced, their efforts were ignored, according to the lawsuit.https://deadline.com/2021/07/scarlett-johansson-walt-disney-co-black-widow-lawsuit-1234802440/
Scarlett Johansson’s Disney Lawsuit Could Shape the Future of Talent Compensation
Three weeks after its release, “Black Widow” has earned a comparatively paltry $319.45 million worldwide. The pandemic is partly to blame, but so is Disney’s decision to offer the film to Disney+ subscribers for $30, which netted the studio an additional $60 million in its opening weekend alone. The result? Johansson earned far less than expected, while Disney’s stock price rose in response to Wall Street’s excitement over the streaming success.
A rich actress deprived of millions is not the typical poster child for a labor dispute, but streaming is having a major impact on compensation for writers, directors, producers, and others with less stature than Johansson. With few, if any, publicly released viewership statistics for streaming projects, it’s hard for talent representatives to even know how much a project to worth to a streamer.
Johansson alleged in the suit that her reps were concerned about “Black Widow” ending up on Disney+ way back in 2019, shortly after the launch of the platform. Marvel’s chief counsel allegedly wrote the following in response: "We totally understand that Scarlett’s willingness to do the film and her whole deal is based on the premise that the film would be widely theatrically released like our other pictures. We understand that should the plan change, we would need to discuss this with you and come to an understanding as the deal is based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses."https://www.indiewire.com/2021/07/scarlett-johansson-disney-lawsuit-black-widow-future-of-talent-compensation-1234654421/
Imax Boss Says “Cannibalization” Hurt ‘Black Widow’, Thinks Disney Will Return To Theatrical Window Releases
“I remember [Disney CEO] Bob Chapek saying at one of their investor days that when times are normal, he thinks theatrical is important, exclusivity is important,” Gelfond said, “and I think when he looks at his data and the pandemic is in the rearview mirror that he’ll come to the same conclusion that everyone else does: The way to maximize value is to have a theatrical window.”
“They used to sell the same property five times, and now they’re selling it once. They might be bringing some revenue forward, but there’s no proof points that it’s a better model.” He added that “a lot of same people, they will come to the same conclusion.”…Imax CEO Rich Gelfond said: “There’s really no question in my mind that the combination of PVOD and a lot of piracy –people haven’t really talked about it that much– clearly there’s a lot of piracy that accounted for the cannibalization, and it significantly affected the box office at the end of the day.”https://deadline.com/2021/07/black-widow-jungle-cruise-disney-controversy-theatrical-windows-imax-rich-gelfond-1234801015/
Netflix’s Film Chief Scott Stuber Is Shaking Up Hollywood: ‘The Movie Business Is in a Revolution’
The streaming service is willing, even eager, to make movies that conventional studios would never produce...Because Netflix isn’t beholden to box office returns, it can afford to widen the aperture when it comes to the projects it backs, and since the company doesn’t own a Marvel or a Pixar, it has to roll the dice on original movies. For its bigger films, which like the forthcoming action movie “Red Notice” can carry budgets north of $200 million, Stuber says his team wants them to draw an audience of more than 70 million viewers. On awards movies, the expectations are different. The executive is looking for a steady progression, with a film gradually gaining traction and building an audience as it moves from one festival to another and garners awards heat.
Perhaps it’s the nature of streaming, and the vast, ever-expanding ocean of content that is being offered up and replenished with alarming rapidity to fill the great maw of the consumer base, but many of the original movies that are being made for these services fail to capture the popular imagination. Stuber agrees. “We have to be more consistent at making these movies more culturally relevant and putting them in the zeitgeist,” he acknowledges.https://variety.com/2021/film/studio-execs/netflix-scott-stuber-steven-spielberg-1235028464/
Netflix To Require Covid Vaccinations For Actors & Other “Zone A” Personnel On Its U.S. Productions
Netflix has become the first major Hollywood studio to implement a blanket policy mandating vaccinations for the casts of all of its U.S. productions, as well as those who come into contact with them on set. I hear the streamer just informed its production teams and partners that it will be requiring vaccinations for everyone working in “Zone A,” which consists of the actors and those who come in close proximity to them. The new return-to-work protocols agreed upon by the Hollywood unions and major studios last week give producers “the option to implement mandatory vaccination policies for casts and crew in Zone A on a production-by-production basis.”https://deadline.com/2021/07/netflix-to-require-covid-vaccinations-for-all-actors-on-us-productions-1234801577/
Netflix Explores Mandating Vaccinations For Cast & Key Crew On UK Productions
Deadline understands that Netflix executives are looking very closely at extending a rule introduced on U.S. shoots on Wednesday, meaning that vaccinations are now mandatory for everyone working in “Zone A,” which consists of the actors and those who come into close proximity with them. Britain is Netflix’s biggest production territory outside of America, with the streamer spending $1B on shoots last year. Shows including The Crown, The Witcher, and Sex Education are made in the UK. https://deadline.com/2021/07/netflix-fully-vaccinated-uk-productions-1234802111/
Despite Growing Threats, Netflix Remains on Course in Asia, Says Report
Its prospects in Asia-Pacific look stronger in the second half of the year, according to research firm Media Partners Asia. But threats to its model abound....Still, Asia-Pacific subscriptions accounted for two thirds of Netflix global net additions in the April-June quarter and 2.4 million in the first half of 2021. The researcher estimates that Netflix will end 2021 with 32.4 million subscriptions in APAC, implying 4.5 million net new subscriptions in the second half of 2021. The fourth quarter will be boosted by higher volume of new US & Korean content.
Multiple dangers remain. These include competition from Disney in the high revenue North Asian markets such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan; the success of local players in Korea; incumbent player resistance in Japan and India; and a new wave of competition in Southeast Asia from global, local and regional players. “A broader concern remains around how anchored Netflix can be to its own content principles in the wake of growing content regulations in India and Indonesia,” was also highlighted by Media Partners Asia, which also noted that Netflix password sharing and online piracy is growing rampantly in Indonesia, India and The Philippines.https://variety.com/2021/global/asia/netflix-asia-growing-threats-growth-continues-report-1235027247/
Cineworld Raises $200M In Incremental Loans
Cinema group Cineworld has secured an additional $200m of incremental loans from existing lenders as it looks to ride out the ongoing pandemic. The loans mature in May 2024.https://deadline.com/2021/07/cineworld-raises-200m-incremental-loans-1234806521/
Covid-19 health pass wreaks havoc on French summer box office
France is the first country in Europe to introduce a so-called health pass or Covid passport scheme but a number of other territories are on the verge of introducing or mulling similar measures including the UK, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Spain...the government made it obligatory to show proof of a full Covid-19 vaccination or a negative PCR or antigen test to enter cultural places including cinemas, theatres and museums from July 21.
French exhibitor body La Fédération Nationale des Cinémas Francais (FNCF) puts the fall at around 50-70%, depending on the title...The decision to roll out the pass in cultural places before other public places echoes a government decision last year to keep shops and commercial centres open in the run-up Christmas, while cinemas and theatres were forced to stay closed, even though there was no evidence to suggest they posed more of a risk in terms of spreading Covid-19. https://www.screendaily.com/news/covid-19-health-pass-wreaks-havoc-on-french-summer-box-office/5162003.article
France’s Hard-Hit Film Sector to Get $106 Million Rescue Plan Amid Vaccine Pass Controversy
French film exhibitors, producers and distributors will benefit from a €90 million ($106 million) rescue plan from the National Film Board (CNC) to compensate for revenue loss caused by the six-month shutdown of theaters. The scheme that was approved Thursday had been pushed by film guilds since May, when theaters reopened with an audience capacity limited at 65% and a 9 p.m. curfew, after being closed down since Oct. 30.
Under the CNC scheme, exhibitors will receive 59.3 million euros, which will cover rent and also fixed charges for the large cinema circuits, while smaller cinemas will receive a bonus. Producers, meanwhile, will receive 16.7 million euros and will also get a 25% bonus on existing subsidies if they release their film in theaters before spring 2022. https://variety.com/2021/film/global/france-vaccine-pass-controversy-rescue-plan-1235030598/
UK ‘pingdemic’ begins to impact cinemas but no closures yet
UK exhibitors are bringing in agency workers and moving staff between sites to save cinemas from temporarily closing as an increasing number of employees are told to self-isolate as part of the UK government’s Covid-19 safety measures. No cinemas have yet closed as a result of the so-called pingdemic, said Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association (UKCA). But it is possible some may have to reduce their opening hours. The ‘pingdemic’ refers to the notification a person receives via an NHS app that means they must quarantine as the app has identified they have come into contact with a person who has tested positive for Covid. Clapp estimates that since cinemas in the UK were allowed to re-open on May 17, approximately 3,000 staff members have been required to self-isolate.https://www.screendaily.com/news/uk-pingdemic-begins-to-impact-cinemas-but-no-closures-yet/5161982.article
U.K.’s Film and TV Production Restart Scheme Results in $2.6 Billion Worth of Productions
The U.K. government’s Film and TV Production Restart scheme has resulted in 640 film and TV projects worth over £1.9 billion ($2.63 billion) going into production in the last 12 months. Among those which have benefited from the scheme are the sixth season of “Peaky Blinders” and Cannes film favorite “Mothering Sunday,” which stars “The Crown” actor Josh O’Connor and Colin Firth. The £500 million scheme, which was unveiled in July last year to aid pandemic recovery, was created to support productions that were unable to secure insurance related to delays caused by Coronavirus. It has supported more than 55,000 screen sector jobs. It will provide cover at least until the end of this year. U.K. production has bounced back following the first pandemic lockdown in March 2020, and at the end of last year recorded the second highest spend for any quarter.https://variety.com/2021/film/news/uk-film-and-tv-production-restart-scheme-results-1235029131/
Peacock Reaches 54M Signups, 20M Monthly Active Accounts; Launch On Sky In UK & Europe Confirmed
CEO Brian Roberts said the service’s results were 50% higher than the company’s last report in the spring...After its Sky debut, the company plans to roll it out globally via third-party distributors.Global availability has been an increasing priority, and it is one motivation for the company exploring potential partnerships with other media companies to boost Peacock.The company has not revealed how many of its users have stepped up to pay for Peacock Premium, but insiders have conceded the number is a fraction of the total user base. https://deadline.com/2021/07/peacock-reaches-54-million-streaming-signups-20m-active-accounts-1234802169/
Ad-Supported SVOD Tiers Gaining Popularity
new data from Hub Research’s annual “Monetization of Video” study suggests that tiered platforms – where viewers can choose between a paid, ad-free option and a less expensive (or free), ad-supported option – appeal to the largest cross-section of viewers.
In a question asked before the ad-supported tier of HBO Max launched last month, almost 40% of current HBO Max respondents said they’d consider switching to the ad-supported tier. But more than a quarter of those who don’t subscribe to Max said they’d consider signing up with a less expensive ad-supported tier as an option.https://www.mediaplaynews.com/hub-ad-supported-svod-tiers-gaining-popularity/
British appetite for VOD continues to grow
It shows that as of this June there were 16.7 million VOD enabled households in the country, as 57% were subscribed to at least one service. However, only 2.3% of GB SVOD households took out a new subscription in Q2, compared to 7% in the same period last year. Despite this slowdown, Amazon Prime Video remains in first place, securing over a third of signups, a title it has held for the past five quarters. Netflix nevertheless dominates as the entry level subscription service, with 44% of its new subscribers never having taken out an SVOD service before. Once Netflix adopts new subscribers, they tend to stay loyal. Netflix has the highest length of subscription with 70% of subscribers having the service for more than two years. NOW comes second with 57% and APV sits at 52%. With 77% of VOD enabled households in GB having a Netflix subscription, it continues to be the most significant player in the market…Other findings include Disney+ scoring highest in satisfaction for the variety of classic films (50% vs 29% for Netflix and 21% for Amazon Prime Video and the most popular VOD genre being crime drama. Significantly, as GB households adopt streaming services this correlates with a decrease in the proportion of households subscribing to cable TV services such as Virgin and Sky, taking a downturn from 42.2% last year to 39.1% in Q2 2021.https://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2021/07/22/british-appetite-for-vod-continues-to-grow/
Disney Plus Hotstar Reveals Ambitious India Growth Plans
In the crowded Indian streaming space, Disney Plus Hotstar is already the market leader with approximately 34 million paid subscribers, but going forward, a series of ambitious strategies will see the company look to expand its base even further.
One key power play will involve betting on the sticky wicket of sports rights — particularly for cricket...Another play for the streamer is continuing its push into broad-based mainstream programming designed to appeal to an audience from the “heart of India” as Gaurav Banerjee, president and head of Hindi and English entertainment for Star India, describes it. The streamer’s star-studded lineup revealed on Tuesday also underlines this approach.https://variety.com/2021/streaming/news/disney-plus-hotstar-india-growth-1235028195/
Disney+ Hotstar Reveals New Content Slate, Pricing Tiers
The platform July 27 disclosed 16 new shows, including four movies: Bhuj: The Pride of India, comedy Hungama 2, thriller Collar Bomb and Bhoot Police. The service will also live-stream cricket tournaments Vivo IPL 2021 and the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. The platform, beginning Sept. 1, will bow new annual subscription plans for a mobile-only single device priced at INR499 ($6.69); two devices at INR899 ($12.06); and INR1499 ($20.12) for four devices. The single mobile-only plan currently costs INR399 ($5.36).https://www.mediaplaynews.com/disney-hotstar-bows-new-content-slate-pricing-tiers/
Disney Can’t Use Star+ Brand In Brazil After Lionsgate’s Starz Wins Court Round
Deadline also understand that Lionsgate/Starz has filed similar suits in Argentina and Mexico. A judge in Argentina denied a TRO request so the case is simply moving forward on its merits. Ditto in Mexico, which has no real judicial mechanism for a TRO. Lionsgate did not file suits in other international territories including Europe where Disney’s STAR+ service will be bundled onto the Disney+ platform, creating less confusion in the minds of consumers. In Latin America, however, it would launch as a separate standalone streaming service.https://deadline.com/2021/07/disney-stars-brazil-lionsgate-starz-lawsuit-1234800421/
WarnerMedia to delay HBO Max roll-out in Europe
Pascal Desroches, WarnerMedia’s CFO, said the company was “seeing good momentum, especially in our Latin American markets” and added that it expected most of its subscriber growth for the remainder of the year to be “from lower ARPU subscribers in that region.” He added that the company is “roughly about a third of the way through” transitioning its existing LATAM subscribers to HBO Max. The exec also revealed that “to lean into HBO Max’s fast start in Latin America, we may push back our launch in some European markets until early 2022.” The company had said in March that it was aiming to roll out HBO Max to 60 countries by the end of 2021, including 21 in Europe.https://tbivision.com/2021/07/23/warnermedia-to-delay-hbo-max-roll-out-in-europe/