Whew! Scarlett Johansson isn’t playing any games with her “Black Widow” coins! According to The Wall Street Journal, the award-winning actress filed a lawsuit against Disney on Thursday. The lawsuit, filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Disney breached their contract with Scarlett by releasing the Marvel film in theaters and on Disney+ at the same time.
Apparently, the agreement between both parties was that ‘Black Widow’ would be exclusively released in theaters. Scarlett, who played the main character in the Marvel joint, said in her lawsuit that her salary depended largely on the film’s box office performance. The movie reportedly earned $80 million dollars at the US box office and $78 million overseas during its opening weekend. But, the lawsuit claims adding the film to Disney+ allegedly cost Scarlett over $50 million. Days after the premiere, ticket sales for the movie dropped faster than most of Marvel’s previous films.
“Disney intentionally induced Marvel’s breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel,” according to the lawsuit documents.
‘Black Widow’ earned about $60 million in Disney+ streams, where subscribers were offered $30 at-home purchases. However, The Wall Street Journal reports that a company spokesman has shut down talks of the lawsuit having any merit saying Disney “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 $20 million she has received to date,” the Disney spokesman allegedly said.
The lawsuit documents claim otherwise saying Scarlett attempted to renegotiate her earnings after learning about the simultaneous release, but neither Disney or Marvel responded. Pre-pandemic, Scarlett was reportedly “concerned” about Disney wanting a dual-release, but was reassured in a 2019 email from Marvel Chief Counsel Dave Galluzzi that wouldn’t be the case. The executive said the movie’s release would follow a “traditional theatrical model” and they’d “come to an understanding” if the plan changed.
Scarlett’s lawsuit also claims ‘Black Widow’ was released on the streaming platform to grow its audience — given that Disney Chairman Robert Iger and Chief Executive Bob Chapek depend on the performance of Disney+ for their annual bonuses.
“In short, the message to—and from— Disney’s top management was clear: increase Disney+ subscribers, never mind your contractual promises, and you will be rewarded,” the lawsuit stated.
But Disney fired back at those notes saying the lawsuit is “sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.” Amid the unpredictable circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent theater closings, Disney opted to release more films via their streaming platform, ‘Black Widow’ being one.
As you may already know, Scarlett joined Marvel’s world in 2010 on ‘Iron Man 2’ as the Black Widow character. The latest movie and focus of this lawsuit is said to be her ninth and last Marvel movie.
“This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts,” said one of Scarlett’s attorneys John Berlinski.
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