According to recent reports, Avengers’ star Scarlett Johansson is suing media conglomerate Disney, read on to why.
Johansson filed a lawsuit against Disney on July 29, claiming that the studio breached her contract by releasing the Marvel movie Black Widow on Disney+ at the same time it was released in theatres.
The Walt Disney Company wanted to make sure they always had great content arriving on their streaming platform Disney+, so they tapped into the intellectual property they acquired from Marvel Studios when they took control of the superhero franchise in 2009. However, some clauses in the contract meant that original MCU films will originally only debut in theatres before arriving on Disney+.
When Disney chose to debut Black Widow on the video on demand platform using the same schedule, they reneged on one of those clauses and that is why they are being sued by star actress Scarlett Johansson. Keep in mind that Johansson did not sue Marvel, but only The Walt Disney Company, claiming that the latter interfered with the contract she had with Marvel, ultimately inducing Marvel to breach it. The suit claims that according to her contract with Marvel, the actress was promised that there would be a “wide theatrical release of the Picture i.e., no less than 1,500 screens.”
In simpler terms, Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit claimed that at the time of the signing of the contract, both parties agreed that the film would release only in theatres for a certain period of time. However, when Marvel announced the day-and-date plans for Black Widow, she was not aware of the decision beforehand and any attempts at negotiation by her lawyers, were ignored by Disney.
Johansson’s lawyer, John Berlinski, in a statement said:
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. 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. 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.”
However, Disney has now fired back with a statement about her compensation that implies that the Lucy actress might not have revealed everything. In a surprising statement made by Disney, it was revealed that Johansson received a whopping $20M compensation for the project. A spokesperson for Disney said:
There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. 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.
This revelation about Johansson’s compensation was an unusual and surprising move by Disney. The company’s reference to COVID-19 implied that the pandemic was one of the main reasons behind the schedule for Black Widow‘s release, because of the limitations on “theatrical moviegoing.”
Black Widow pulled in over $319 million globally, which means it’s set to become one of the lowest-grossing Marvel movies of all time. While it did great numbers on its first weekend, including $60 million from Disney+ Premier Access, the box office numbers drastically reduced, which was blamed on the Disney+ Premier Access release, as this increased the amount of piracy for the film due to a high-quality digital version being easily available.
If you haven’t read our Fan Review of Black Widow, here’s your chance to do so.