Scarlett Johansson Sues Disney Over Streaming Release of ‘Black Widow’

Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit against Disney on Thursday in Los Angeles alleging the media company breached its contract by posting the movie day and date in theaters and on the Disney + streaming service. According to the lawsuit (as reported by The Washington Post), her agreement with Marvel Entertainment, owned by Disney, guaranteed a theatrical release, with her salary based largely on how the film went at the box office.
"Disney intentionally breached Marvel's contract without justification to prevent Ms. Johansson from taking full advantage of her dealings with Marvel," the lawsuit said.
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IndieWire has reached out to Disney representatives for comment.
Black Widow, which has grossed more than $ 318 million worldwide since opening in theaters and on Disney + on July 9, posted one of the worst box office drops in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe between its first and second weekend. The National Association of Theater Owners blamed Disney + for the availability of the film, where consumers could rent the film at the premium level for $ 29.99 after “Black Widow” fell 67 percent on the second weekend.
With studios continuing to prioritize streaming over theatrical exhibition, the lawsuit could signal changes in the industry. In May, Emily Blunt and John Krasinski filed for financial compensation from Paramount Pictures when it became known that "A Quiet Place Part II" would be released on Paramount Plus 45 days after the film opened in theaters.
According to the complaint, Johansson's agents wanted to renegotiate the terms of the contract after learning of the day and date release strategy for Black Widow, her ninth (and final) appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. According to the lawsuit, Disney and Marvel did not respond.
According to reports, the move to get the film out on Disney + is expected to cost Johansson over $ 50 million, according to the Washington Post story. The story also reports that well before the 2019 pandemic, Johansson reached out to Marvel to assure them that "Black Widow" would only go straight to theaters.
The suit includes an email dated March 2019 from Marvel Chief Counsel Dave Galluzzi promising a traditional theatrical release model. "We understand that if the plan changes, we need to discuss this with you and come to an agreement, as the deal is based on a series of (very large) cashier bonuses," the email read.
In a statement, Johansson's attorney John Berlinski said: "It's no secret that Disney is releasing films like 'Black Widow' directly on Disney + in order to get more subscribers and thereby boost the company's share price - and that it is behind Covid-19 as a Hiding pretext to do this. 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. "
Although Black Widow grossed $ 80 million domestically and $ 78 million overseas when it opened after the July 4th weekend, the film also grossed $ 60 million through premium streaming on Disney +.
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