Are actors making more money than ever in the age of streaming?

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In 2014, it was reported that Robert Downey Jr., would collect a $ 40 million salary, plus a backend stake, for his role in Captain America: Civil War. In terms of a one-time salary for a single role, it was one of the highest acting incomes on record at that time. Previously, it was the front page when movie stars pulled record money for new roles, like the major hubbub that surrounded Jim Carrey’s $ 20 million salary for The cable guy in 1996. Money is only getting bigger for that handful of dedicated A-Listers these days, but news reports are almost getting tired of it.

Following Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney for loss of earnings relating to the release of Black Widow, the industry’s growing fear of the prevalence of the streaming age has come to the fore. Variety recently reported some of the gargantuan salaries actors earn, mostly through Netflix. Daniel Craig receives $ 100 million for the Knives Out suites, which includes streaming back-end redemption. Will Smith got a surprising $ 40 million for so-called independent title king richard. “Poor” Robert Pattinson only gets $ 3 million for playing the fucking Batman.

Much has been said about how streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon are trying to retain the lure of a seemingly endless financial pit as a way to attract top talent. It is clear that they are still betting heavily on this formula, but its effectiveness has come under closer scrutiny in the new post-COVID economy. Hollywood still operates by the logic that the most effective way to make all the money is to make big international box office returns. This is one of the reasons they are pushing forward so desperately with theatrical releases despite the terrifying rise in the number of coronaviruses and deaths around the world. When you tell an actor that it’s definitely worth the pay cut because the backend deal will benefit them for years to come, it’s hard to justify that when no one is going to the movies and you have dropped the film on a streaming service with little warning. Netflix is ​​compensating movie stars for the projected box office participation they would gain from traditional theatrical release, but it is unclear to what extent this model is applied across the board and not just to headliners. .

That’s part of why we’re seeing these major payday bumps now. It’s a safety net for the wealthiest people in the business (make your ‘eat the rich’ jokes here.) Johansson may not be a sympathetic enough public figure for some when it comes to advocating. this case, but she is not wrong. Netflix isn’t the only streaming service hoping to avoid ScarJo headaches. Warner Bros. negotiated monetary compensation for some of its stars when they made the unprecedented decision to simultaneously release their main films on HBO Max and in theaters. If the actor isn’t sure to get a boost from ticket sales, then he’ll want his money upfront, especially if current circumstances continue to drag down movie theater attendance (seriously, why? are studios still releasing movies in theaters right now ?!) Like Variety noted, this is why Will Smith gets such a salary for king richard, a film with solid potential for mid-budget awards but hardly a blockbuster pending. Really his name can mean more to this movie than to something like Suicide Squad since he is the undisputed star, they market him around.

But it’s not just about megastars. Most people in the industry, including most of the cast, are working figures who don’t rely on a big check after a movie to keep them going year round. They take their Law and Order: SVU episode, they appear in this little indie flick, and then you’re excited when you recognize their faces in two scenes from a Marvel release. For those involved in jobbing, residuals and fair wages matter more than ever. The Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America have been fighting for several years to obtain proper compensation for streaming. In 2017, SAG succeeded in pushing for cast members to receive streaming residue after 90 days, instead of a full year. But the journey continues. One of the main sticking points with the Johansson costume is whether the premium Disney + fees to watch certain movies see that money flowing to the stars, crew, etc. It’s clear that streaming has irrevocably changed the game and the studios probably weren’t ready for that change to happen at the rate it did. Even if they could have foreseen the last year of drama, it is unlikely that they rushed to avoid labor rights disputes with a selfless eye.

The evolution of the celebrity model also plays a major role in this battle. Of course, it makes sense to pay through the nose for Robert Downey Jr. to continue donning his CGI Iron Man costume, but the audiences who loved him as Tony Stark didn’t really flock to see Dolittle. When the property is worth more than your name, some studio heads will complain that you’re not really the one to thank for the record-breaking big revenues, but that won’t stop actors from demanding their fair share of the money. bigger and bigger pie, especially if you sign up for a decade or more sequels. Hollywood thrives on hierarchies and it won’t stop anytime soon.

Blockbuster cinema has been evolving into a “too big to fail” model for about 15 years now, with budgets exceeding $ 200 million, a figure that no longer seems rare or shocking to see reported in the trades. When the breakeven point is half a billion dollars, one wonders when the bubble will burst. Some have predicted that the film industry will try to shrink to a more sustainable model after COVID, but these salary increases suggest otherwise. The stakes are higher and the opportunities to be courted greater than ever. Hopefully the ongoing changes are allowed to take effect at all levels and not just for those who already have all the money.

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Kayleigh is a writer and feature editor for Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter or listen to his podcast, Hollywood reading.


Source of header image: Toni Anne Barson // WireImage via Getty Images



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