Scarlett Johansson Sues Disney Over 'Black Widow' Streaming Release - Rolling Stone
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Scarlett Johansson Sues Disney Over ‘Black Widow’ Streaming Release

Actress claims Disney breached her Marvel contract by offering superhero film on Disney+, impacting her box office-tied salary

black widow

Scarlett Johansson in 'Black Widow'

Marvel Studios 2021

Scarlett Johansson has filed a lawsuit against Disney — the parent company of Marvel Studios — over their decision to stream Black Widow on Disney+ simultaneously with the theatrical release, a move that the actress claims cost her a significant cut of the box office.

Johansson’s legal team filed the lawsuit Thursday at Los Angeles Superior Court, the Wall Street Journal reported. The suit alleges that Disney breached Marvel’s agreement with Johansson that guaranteed Black Widow a theatrical-only release, as the majority of the actress’ salary on the superhero film was tied to box office gross.

Neither a representative for Johansson nor Disney immediately responded to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.

Black Widow originally was scheduled for a theater-only release on May 1st, 2020, but that release date was pushed several times due to the Covid-19 pandemic. During the past year, Disney has offered up some of its planned but postponed 2020 releases (like Mulan and Raya and the Last Dragon) via Disney+ Premier Access, with subscribers paying an additional $30 per film to stream the movie at home. Upon its release, finally, on July 9th, 2021, Black Widow was also offered through Disney+ Premier Access.

“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,” the suit stated.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a source estimated that Johansson lost $50 million due to the Disney+ stream. The company previously revealed that Disney+ Premier Access purchases of Black Widow grossed $60 million during the film’s opening weekend. (Black Widow also made $80 million domestically and $78 million internationally at the theatrical box office its opening weekend.)

“There is no merit whatsoever to this filing,” a spokesperson for Walt Disney Company said in a statement. “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.”

In December 2020, Warner Bros announced that their entire slate of 2021 films would be released simultaneously in both theaters and on their HBO Max streaming service, a move that upset many of the filmmakers and actors who had salaries and sequel hopes tied to the box office; unlike Disney+, HBO Max does not charge extra to access first-run films. However, Warner Bros. remedied the situation (for now) by revealing new payment structures for filmmakers, actors, and crews based on HBO Max subscription fees.

Johansson’s lawyer John Berlinski told the Wall Street Journal of the lawsuit, “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.”

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