Black Widow Star Scarlett Johansson Sues Disney for Putting the Movie on their Streaming Service
“Black widow” star Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney for releasing the movie in theatres and on Disney+ simultaneously. This strategy will cost the star $50 million. Johansson has filed a lawsuit against the media giant in Los Angeles Superior Court and claims that this releasing strategy is a breach of the contract she made with the company.
According to the lawsuit, the contract which Johansson made with Marvel Entertainment, owned by Disney, ensured the exclusive theatrical release of Black Widow, and a portion of Johansson’s salary was based on the box office performance of the movie. The lawsuit also asserts that it did not include streaming as part of the contract. Black Widow generated $158 million theatrical revenue and $60 million in pay-to-watch Disney+ downloads. The lawsuit says that offering the movie to the streaming service could deprive the star of her potential income.
The lawsuit states that “Disney knew that the cannibalization of [box office receipts] by Disney+ would save Marvel (and by extension, Disney) ‘very large’ amounts of money that it would otherwise owe Ms. Johansson. On information and belief, 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.”
In response to the lawsuit, a Disney spokesperson said: “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 US$20 million she has received to date.”
Johansson’s representative tried to contact Marvel Entertainment and Disney to re-negotiate the contract but, they remained unresponsive.
To watch Black Widow on Disney+, customers have to pay $30 for a premium access pass. This move may have influenced Black Widow’s income generated from theatres, although many cinemas are closed around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Disney is not the only company that adopted this hybrid model of release but Warner Bros. also adopted a hybrid model for this year by releasing movies simultaneously in theatres and HBO Max on the same date. It will move back to theatre-first release next year. This strategy has been criticized by many Hollywood personalities including Denis Villeneuve and Christopher Nolan.