Disney Fires Back at Scarlett Johansson, Calls ‘Black Widow’ Lawsuit ‘Sad and Distressing’
The Walt Disney Company clapped "Black Widow" star Scarlett Johansson, criticizing the actress' infringement suit for "callous disregard for the dire and ongoing global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic".
In a court filing on Thursday, Johansson said that Disney's decision to send the Marvel film to Disney Plus at the same time it hit theaters cost them millions of dollars in backend compensation. These bonuses were tied to reaching checkout benchmarks that Black Widow is unlikely to achieve. Disney counters that it honored the terms of Johansson's deal to star in the Avengers spin-off film.
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"There is no merit in this filing," Disney said in an unusually fiery statement. "The lawsuit is particularly sad and harrowing because it disregards the dire and ongoing global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic."
The company went on to state that the star had already received $ 20 million for her work, arguing that "releasing 'Black Widow' on Disney + with Premier Access will add to her ability, on top of the $ 20 million that she has “received substantially better to this day.” Disney made no information on whether or not Johansson's pact was renegotiated so that she could participate in the streaming rental income.
In March, Disney announced that "Black Widow" and several of its 2021 films such as "Cruella" and "Jungle Cruise" would premiere simultaneously in theaters on the studio's subscription-based streaming service. These films were made available to Disney Plus subscribers for a rental fee of $ 30. The studio positioned the move as a concession to the damage COVID-19 had done to the cinema distribution landscape.
On July 9, “Black Widow” set a pandemic-era box office record in North America for $ 80 million. It made an additional $ 78 million overseas and $ 60 million on Disney Plus. Despite these impressive numbers, ticket sales fell sharply in the weeks that followed and the gross of the image is currently $ 319 million worldwide. With many Marvel films topping $ 1 billion at the box office around the world, Black Widow is well on its way to becoming one of the company's worst-grossing releases.
"It's no secret that Disney is releasing films like 'Black Widow' directly on Disney Plus to get subscribers and thereby boost the company's share price - and that it is hiding behind COVID-19 as a pretext for doing so," said attorney John Berlinski for Johansson said in a statement on diversity. “But ignoring the contracts of the artists responsible for the success of their films in order to promote this short-sighted strategy violates their rights and we look forward to proving it in court. This will certainly not be the last case in which Hollywood talents stand up against Disney and make it clear that whatever the company claims, it is legally obliged to honor its contracts. "
As Berlinski suggests, Johansson's lawsuit could affect the way movie stars are compensated in the streaming era and could spark a wave of new legal action from actors upset that their films don't exclusively debut in theaters.
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