Johannsson hits Disney with a lawsuit, but the company strikes back.
Black Widow may have fought Dreykoff in the movie, but actress Scarlett Johansson has her stinger set on Disney. The star of the latest Marvel film filed a lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday, July 29, alleging Disney breached her contract by releasing Black Widow on Disney+. In the lawsuit, Johansson states she agreed that part of her earnings would be based on the film's box office performance, and by releasing the movie on Disney's streaming app, she was cheated out of her salary.
"To maximize these receipts, and thereby protect her financial interests, Ms. Johansson extracted a promise from Marvel that the release of the picture would be a 'theatrical release,'" read Johannson's lawsuit. "As Ms. Johansson, Disney, Marvel, and most everyone else in Hollywood knows, a 'theatrical release' is a release that is exclusive to movie theatres. Disney was well aware of this promise, but nonetheless directed Marvel to violate its pledge and instead release the picture on the Disney+ streaming service the very same day it was released in movie theatres."
Johansson's lawsuit goes a step further and claims Disney Chairman Robert Iger and Chief Executive Bob Chapek receive bonuses based on Disney+'s performance and therefore there was an underlying motive as to why the company released Black Widow on its streaming service. "In short, the message to—and from—Disney’s top management was clear: increase Disney+ subscribers, never mind your contractual promises, and you will be rewarded,” the suit stated.
Disney's decision to release the film simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ came at a critical time for the entertainment industry. As coronavirus cases continue to surge across the country, Disney says it based its decision on the health of its fans, and Johansson's lawsuit is meritless and completely disregards the safety of others. "There is no merit whatsoever to this filing," stated a Disney spokesperson. "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."
Based on Johannson's complaint, her representatives attempted to renegotiate her contract after learning about Disney's plan to release Black Widow on Disney+ but Disney and Marvel were unresponsive. According to an individual with intimate knowledge of the contract, Disney's decision for a simultaneous streaming release cost the actress over $50 million.
"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," said Johansson's attorney, John Berlinski. "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."
Black Widow's opening weekend totals grossed $80 million in domestic box office sales and $78 million overseas. The film earned another $60 million from purchases on Disney+ and was the first streaming release Disney actually provided actual figures for. Earlier this month, Johansson confirmed her appearance in Black Widow would be her final Marvel role.
So, what do you think about the lawsuit? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.