Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow story has revealed a huge problem with streaming

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The biggest Hollywood attraction this summer is a multi-million dollar battle between the two best known players in the industry: Scarlett Johansson and Disney. Johansson sued Disney last week over Marvel’s superhero film of the day and release of the day Black Widow, who brought the film to Disney Plus on the same day it arrived at theaters, possibly depriving him of a huge box office salary. The imprint has been chaotic, but it’s even more important to illuminate the countless ways in which streaming has forever changed the way we experience movies and the impact on the creators and talents who make them.

Film contracts have traditionally been negotiated around ticket results, and big bonuses have been tied to the film’s performance. This worked well for both talents and studios. The studios saved a piece of money upfront and didn’t risk spending large sums on the flop, while Actors, producers and others involved in the film could look at the ticket results to see exactly what their production was worth and get paid accordingly.

But with the transition to streaming, things have had to change. Actors and producers who work with a streaming device like Netflix are typically paid a flat fee, said an industry lawyer negotiating top-level talent agreements. Limit. (The attorney asked not to be named to speak freely on the subject.) If they are lucky enough to have significant leverage, they may also be able to receive a bonus that is a contractual amount of dollars over months or quarters. But it’s not about performance criteria like ticket sales. The lawyer said Netflix often pays this pre-negotiated amount in eight quarterly installments after the title is released, while Apple tends to pay more quickly in 12 months.

Because the situation is changing so fast, part of the role of this lawyer in contract negotiations is now to “read tea papers and plan where contracts are going”.

The old way of negotiating the merits of talents has changed rapidly. According to Johansson’s complaint, his terms Black Widow The release was originally completed in 2017 – early enough that Disney Plus hadn’t been released, and Johansson’s team apparently didn’t consider it necessary to negotiate the terms of the stream. His contract is defined Black Widow debuted with “extensive theatrical distribution,” but that would be it exclusively theater seemed to be just understanding.

While Actors now know they need to negotiate the terms of the stream, determining their value is more difficult than just looking at ticket revenue. Streaming services keep their performance data very close to the chest and are reluctant to share details of engagement and revenue under certain headings. Information about it Is often distributed opaque, blurredor there is no context for how the success (or failure) of the title was measured using the corresponding streams.

“I don’t see Netflix wanting to share soon how much their subscriber base is growing and what their viewership will be soon,” the lawyer said. “But we’d like to see it.”

This is one reason why industry analysts who spoke Limit expressed the need for greater transparency not only for Disney, but also for all streams of performance information on the titles of its platforms. Without it, talent will find it difficult to defend itself in negotiations in a rapidly evolving streaming landscape, argued Karie Bible, a media analyst with Exhibitor Relations Co., who spoke Limit on the phone.

“Streamers are for the most part pretty shitty, opaque about numbers, distributions, and demographics,” the Bible said, adding that this information is important not only to analysts but also to agents, executives, and lawyers who have traditionally negotiated based on ticket performance. This lack of transparency in streaming can lead not only to mistrust, but possibly even more to what the Bible described as “creative accounting” in companies that are not straightforward during contract negotiations. And this can mean lost income from talent.

Another thing to keep in mind is that each individual success story for Streamer is generally unclear. Ticket revenue provides a clear picture of the film’s success in relation to its budget and projected ticket sales. But with streaming, none of us really knows what the win looks like – huge numbers of viewers, new sign-ups, repeat prospects – except for the company that told us the film is one.

“I think we need to understand this lawsuit in the context of the redefined success stories of all the films on the market,” Daniel Loria, director of content strategy and editorial director of Boxoffice Pro, said on the phone. “Unfortunately, we are all obscured by what this success means in the streaming era – not just in the COVID era – but as a streaming whole.”

Like the Bible, Loria added, it’s likely to be frustrating for people in the entertainment industry who benefit from streaming-generated titles but don’t get enough transparency about data and seemingly arbitrarily designed success metrics that can vary by company and service. This can lead top-name talents to think twice about making such contracts, or at least demanding clauses to protect their income in the event that the studio next to the stream changes the release of the film.

“If the industry wants to redefine the indicators of film success, it has to be on the same page for what that definition is,” Loria said. “And now it looks like every studio is playing by different rules and different metrics about what’s financially successful and what’s not.”

Now, negotiations do not work in the same way for all actors. Streaming services are willing to seek more talent if they believe production is likely to increase service orders, a Hollywood lawyer said. Limit. This in itself offers a lot of opportunities for talent who want to join a production that can be a streaming release, as we’ve seen playing on services like Netflix and Apple TV Plus.

“I think cutting-edge talent has always been and will continue to be a lever in our business,” the lawyer said. At the same time, the lawyer referred to the “upheaval” of two major players, “COVID-19” and the new streaming era, with complex agreements negotiated before both.

Whether Johansson’s lawsuit is settled out of court is less important than what we’ve learned from Disney’s response to it: streaming services are intentionally boring about how owning every element of production, including publications, and the insatiable desire to influence streaming in the entertainment industry. No one is sure what success looks like today, and it is known who wins and who loses hard. Because the streamers have not made the information more transparent and accessible, the people who make the goods we look at are negotiating blindly. And in the end, what’s bad for streaming is bad for viewers.

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