Scarlett Johansson, Natasha Romanoff herself, is suing Disney over the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access concurrently with its theatrical release. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that this move was a breach of her contract.
The fact that it was not released exclusively in theaters is a breach of contract, Johannsson’s suit states. Because. of this concurrent release, Johannson’s team believes that ticket sales were not as strong. This, in turn, impacted Johannsson’s pay which was tied to the box office benchmarks. At certain levels, bonuses were set to kick in.
“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 states.
The Wall Street Journal, which broke this story, states that sources close to Scarlett Johansson figure that the decision to release the film on Disney+ with Premier Access cost Johansson approximately $50 million in bonuses.
Black Widow was released on July 9th with the strongest theatrical opener since theaters reopened after the pandemic. Its opening weekend garnered $80 million domestically and added an extra $78 million globally and $60 million thanks to the Disney+ Premier Access release.
It was noted in the lawsuit that the decision to release the movie on Disney’s streaming service led to a surge in Disney stock after Disney revealed the Disney+ numbers.
“Disney chose to placate Wall Street investors and pad its bottom line, rather than allow its subsidiary Marvel to comply with the agreement,” the suit reads. “To know one’s surprise Disney breach of the agreement successfully pulled millions of fans away from the theatres and toward its Disney + streaming service.”
This lawsuit is the first of its kind since the pandemic has dramatically changed how movies potentially are released. Throughout the pandemic studios found themselves releasing movies that would traditionally be in theaters on streaming services. Warner Bros. paid some of its big actors a backend from its own coffers after releasing films on HBO Max during the backend. It is unknown if Disney is doing anything similar.
If Scarlet Johansson’s suit is successful, this could lead to more similar lawsuits. With the lingering impacts of the pandemic still being felt by studios, it can be guessed that future contracts will be written and negotiated to avoid a situation like this.
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