30 Jul – The release of "Black Widow" in theatres and Disney+ was a big win for Disney for the past few weeks, except that now it is being sued by its star, Scarlett Johansson.
It was revealed that Johansson has filed a lawsuit against the studio on 29 July in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming that the studio breached her contract by doing just that, at the expense of Johansson, whose compensation is said to be largely based on box office receipts.
According to the lawsuit, "To maximize these receipts, and thereby protect her financial interests, Ms. Johansson extracted a promise from Marvel that the release of the picture would be a theatrical release. As Ms. Johansson, Disney, Marvel, and most everyone else in Hollywood knows, a 'theatrical release' is a release that is exclusive to movie theatres. Disney was well aware of this promise, but nonetheless directed Marvel to violate its pledge and instead release the picture on the Disney+ streaming service the very same day it was released in movie theatres."
The actress' attorney, John Berlinski stated that Disney releasing films like "Black Widow" onto Disney+ was intended to increase subscribers and boost the company's stock price, "hiding behind COVID-19 as a pretext to do so," he added.
"But ignoring the contracts of the artistes 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. 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 honour its contracts," Berlinski said.
On the other hand, Disney had since fired back saying that the filing has no merit.
"The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. 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," its rep stated.
It is noted that "Black Widow" brought in USD 80 million in its North America opening in theatres and USD 60 million globally on Disney+ when it was first simultaneously released, and made roughly USD 318 million worldwide, to date.