On Thursday (29th July), longtime Marvel superstar Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit suing Disney over the “Black Widow” release. Johansson’s attorneys alleged that Disney has breached the contract when the studio opted to debut the film simultaneously in both theaters and in Disney+.
The move was claimed by Johansson’s side to be depriving the box-office sales of the Avengers spinoff movie. The contractual promise stated that “Black Widow” would be a “theatrical release” and the star’s salary would be based largely on the profit made from the box office premiere.
The alleged breach of contract has cost Johansson millions of dollars in loss. “Black Widow” is on track to become one of the lowest-grossing Marvel movies of all time as the box office ticket sales currently stand at only $319 million globally.
Johansson’s lawyer John Berlinski in a statement to Entertainment Weekly suggested that Disney is prioritising it’s streaming site as a source of future revenue and disregarding the existing contracts. He also claimed that Disney is hiding behind the Covid-19 situation to increase Disney+ subscribers.
“It’s no secret that Disney is releasing films like Black Widow directly onto Disney+ to increase subscribers and thereby boost the company’s stock price — and that it’s hiding behind Covid-19 as a pretext to do so,” remarked Berlinski. He added, “But ignoring the contracts of the artists responsible for the success of its films in furtherance of this short-sighted strategy violates their rights and we look forward to proving as much in court.”
Johansson in her complaint also compared the way Disney and it’s rival company, Warner Bros approached the issue. Similarly, Warner Bros also opted to debut some of its films both in theatres and streaming site HBO Max. However, the lawsuit alleged that compared to Disney, Warner Bros negotiated with the stars of their films as opposed to Disney’s way of ignoring the actress’ stand on the matter.
Disney released a statement later on Thursday slamming the actress’ lawsuit for showing “callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.” A Walt Disney spokesperson in a statement proclaimed that Johansson’s complaint has no merit.
The spokesperson said, “Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract and furthermore, 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.”
ScarJo reportedly filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court.