BLACK WIDOW: Disney CEO Bob Chapek Defends Disney+ Release Strategy During Earnings Report

Disney and Scarlett Johansson remain locked in a legal battle over Black Widow's dual theatrical/Disney+ Premiere Access release, and Bob Chapek has now addressed the decision to head down that route...

Scarlett Johansson has filed a lawsuit against Disney in an effort to reclaim the money she lost from Black Widow being released on Disney+'s Premier Access service the same time it dropped in theaters. The studio maintains she's had a fair cut of the profits, and things have become increasingly personal between the two sides in the weeks that have followed. 

New(ish) Disney CEO Bob Chapek isn't backing down, though, and it's been reported that his predecessor, Bob Iger, and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige aren't happy with the way things have been handled. 

During a call with investors last night, Chapek justified the release strategy. "Last year, in light of the prolonged and unpredictable nature of a pandemic, we needed to find alternative ways to bring our movies to consumers while theaters were closed," he explained. "And once they began to reopen, there was still widespread reluctance to return. Therefore we adopted a three-prong strategy for releasing our films that consisted of theatrical releases, direct to Disney+, and a hybrid of theatrical plus Premier Access, as we did with Cruella, Jungle Cruise, and Marvel's Black Widow, the top performing film at the domestic box office since the start of a pandemic."

The CEO then made an effort to put an end to speculation that he and Iger have clashed in recent weeks. "Bob Iger and I, along with the leaders of our creative and distribution teams, determine this was the right strategy because it would enable us to reach the broadest possible audience."

Chapek concluded by seemingly making it clear that, moving forward, the studio will decide how to release its movies, and everyone else...well, they can either like it or lump it. 

"Just to reiterate, distribution decisions are made on a film-by-film basis based on a global marketplace conditions and consumer behavior," he added. "We will continue to utilize all available options going forward. Learn from insights gained with each release and innovate accordingly, but always doing what we believe is in the best interest of the film, and the best interest of our constituents."

The battle over Black Widow isn't over yet, but depending on how things pan out, it could have a major impact on how studios deal with talent when it comes to distribution in the streaming era.


Click on the "Next" button below to check out 10
of the biggest Easter Eggs in Black Widow

10. Incredible Hulk #258

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We're kicking things off with a real deep cut Easter Egg here as the plane the young Natasha and her "family" escape from S.H.I.E.L.D./HYDRA on has the number 258 on it.

This is almost certainly a reference to Incredible Hulk #258, the comic book that first introduced us to a team of Soviet Super Soldiers. They would later be named The Winter Guard, a team created by Russia to rival The Avengers that (a different) Red Guardian was once part of. 

He wasn't an original member, though Crimson Dynamo, Darkstar, Ursa Major, and Vanguard were.

While it's a shame the team doesn't appear in Black Widow, there is a very cool Ursa Easter Egg that we're going to get to a little later in this feature! 
 

9. Another Pose Joke

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A running gag in the movie sees Marvel Studios take aim at the sexualised pose Black Widow has frequently used in the MCU and the fact it doesn't really make any sense from a fighting standpoint.

Needless to say, we're not expecting Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova to make use of that moving forward, but there's actually another "pose" joke you may have missed in Black Widow that comes when Melina (disguised as Natasha) wakes up in her cell aboard the Red Room. 

She's lying in the exact same way Scarlet Johansson posed for one of the Captain America: The Winter Soldier posters, a stance many fans argued at the time was nonsensical. 

It's a cool touch, and a pointed way to reference a past mistake!
 

8. Ursa

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Red Guardian proves to be a massively entertaining part of Black Widow, though we only get to spend a small amount of time with him behind bars. 

There, the Russian Super Soldier challenges many of his fellow prisoners to arm-wrestling contests and makes short work of them. However, the huge guy whose arm he breaks is named Ursa and quite possibly meant to be the aforementioned Ursa Major. 

In the comic books, he's a mutant who transformed into a walking, talking bear. That explains why Alexei makes that bear crack when they face-off, though we're guessing this Ursa is powerless. 

It's a fun Easter Egg, but one that suggests there are no real plans for the character moving forward.
 

7. A Subtle X-Men Tease?

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We're all desperate to see the X-Men in the MCU, so perhaps this is a reach!

However, when Melina mentions that Natasha was chosen for her "genetic" potential (which is a big part of why she was such a successful Black Widow), we can't help but wonder if this is a tease for something bigger. We know that HYDRA unlocked something within Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, and while the former's powers seem to be magic-based, that doesn't explain Quicksilver's speed.

Regardless, later in the movie, Dreykov also talks about searching for the "genetic potential in infants," so could this be a subtle hint that the mutant X-Gene already exists in the MCU? 

Something else might be needed to activate it, but in the meantime, science and magic might be enough to at least tap into that and unleash dormant superpowers.
 

6. Iron Maiden's Mask

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We thought we spotted this in an early trailer for Black Widow, but a closer look at this key scene confirms that, yes, Melina really does have Iron Maiden's mask locked away in her armoury. 

The MCU's version of the character is a fairly significant departure from her comic book counterpart, but it seems she may have once donned Iron Maiden's mask as one of Dreykov's Red Room assassins.

It's possible that it's meant to be a very early version of the technology Natasha later uses to disguise herself (that we first saw in Captain America: The Winter Soldier), but this is still a fun Easter Egg.

Perhaps Melina can don the mask if and when she makes her return?
 

5. Crimson Dynamo

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Yelena pointedly refers to Red Guardian as "Crimson Dynamo" at one point. While it could have been her way of showing she doesn't care about his superhero persona, we can't help but hope there is a Crimson Dynamo somewhere in the MCU. 

The Iron Man villain was Anton Vanko, the old man we met at the beginning of Iron Man 2. His son was Ivan, that movie's lead villain - played by Mickey Rourke - a character who ended up being a weird cross between Whiplash and Crimson Dynamo.

Perhaps Anton once worked for the Red Room, but there's definitely room to make use of this character.

Marvel Studios will likely want to avoid getting too political with any Russian heroes or villains, but we'd love to see this armoured baddie in Armor Wars or Ironheart.
 

4. Hawkeye's Voice Cameo

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Black Widow finally pulls back the curtain on what happened with Natasha and Clint Barton in Budapest, though we don't ever get to see much of that mission. 

There are hints - like arrow holes in the wall of Natasha's apartment where the two clearly fought - but that's about it until Jeremy Renner lends his voice to the movie. That moment comes when Natasha is about to blow Dreykov up, and as cool as it was to get a cameo like this, we can't help but wish it had been a little more significant. 

Director Cate Shortland has said they didn't want to rely on male characters here, and that's absolutely fair enough, but seeing the two fighting side-by-side would have been awesome. 

We'd like to think it's being saved for elsewhere, but don't bank on it!
 

3. "Thank You For Your Cooperation"

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In 2012's The Avengers, a captured Loki taunted Black Widow about the red in her ledger and mentioned Dreykov's daughter. That was explained here when a flashback shows us that, in order to defect to S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha had to blow the villainous leader of the Red Room up and used his daughter to verify he was there. 

Ultimately, Natasha would outsmart the God of Mischief by figuring out he had plans for The Hulk. It was at that point she said, "Thank you for your cooperation."

After outsmarting Dreykov, Black Widow reels off the exact same line. 

It's a fun throwback and probably the closest the MCU's version of the character has to a catchphrase!
 

2. The Raft Breakout

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While the movie jumps very quickly from General "Thunderbolt" Ross closing in on Black Widow to her having dyed her hair ready for Avengers: Infinity War, the latter scene puts a completely different spin on Captain America: Civil War.

At the end of the 2016 movie, we saw Steve Rogers breaking into The Raft to set his friends free. 

However, this movie reveals that he was able to get there on a Quinjet thanks to Black Widow, while strongly hinting that Natasha was right by his side when Cap freed the likes of Sam Wilson, Scott Lang, and Wanda Maximoff. 

Revealing Natasha was aligned with Steve from the start is a cool touch and emphasises her importance in the MCU.
 

1. Valentina Allegra de Fontaine

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Black Widow's post-credits scene brings back The Falcon and The Winter Soldier's mysterious Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. She was supposed to debut here first, of course, but the shift in release dates doesn't really matter. 

Sending a mourning Yelena after her sister's "killer," Clint Barton, it seems Val - or whoever she reports to if she's not the person in charge - wants Hawkeye dead for reasons which aren't entirely clear. Now, this plot point will obviously be picked up on in the Hawkeye TV series coming to Disney+.

It sounds like Yelena has been working for Val for a while, and between recruiting a Black Widow and her own Captain America in U.S. Agent, it feels like the villain could be assembling a team.

The Dark Avengers, perhaps?
 

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