Movies July 30, 2021
Disney Responds to Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ Lawsuit
“Black Widow” star Scarlett Johansson is taking on Disney in a new lawsuit, and the studio is hitting back.
On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported Johansson filed the suit in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming Disney violated her contract by releasing “Black Widow” on Disney+ the same day it hit theaters.
According to CNN, the suit states, "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.’ 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."
Sources tell The New York Times, Scarlett stood to make $50 million if the movie approached $1 billion in global ticket sales, noting that “Captain Marvel” and “Black Panther” exceeded that amount.
By making the movie available to Disney+ Premier Access members, the suit reportedly claims, “First, Disney wanted to lure the picture’s audience away from movie theaters and towards its own streaming service, where it could keep the revenues for itself while simultaneously growing the Disney+ subscriber base, a proven way to boost Disney’s stock price. Second, Disney wanted to substantially devalue Ms. Johansson’s agreement and thereby enrich itself.”
Furthermore, the suit claims that she did try to renegotiate her contract with Marvel and Disney, but was “largely ignored.”
Disney responded with a statement to The Times, claiming "there is no merit whatsoever to this filing," calling the suit “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic."
The statement continued, "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 $20 million she has received to date.”
Scarlett's agent agent Bryan Lourd responded, telling Deadline in a statement, "They have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t."
He went on, "Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions. The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of. Scarlett is extremely proud of the work that she, and all of the actors, writers, directors, producers, and the Marvel creative team have been a part of for well over a decade."
Lourd insisted, "This suit was filed as a result of Disney’s decision to knowingly violate Scarlett’s contract. They have very deliberately moved the revenue stream and profits to the Disney+ side of the company leaving artistic and financial partners out of their new equation. That’s it, pure and simple."
The statement continued, "Disney’s direct attack on her character and all else they implied is beneath the company that many of us in the creative community have worked with successfully for decades."
According to The Times, ticket sales for “Black Widow” are at $327 million, the lowest of any Marvel movie since the 2008 film “The Incredible Hulk,” which earned $265 million. The paper notes that would be “$341 million in today’s dollars.”