Attorneys for the actress claim that Disney violated the terms of Johansson’s contract with Marvel by releasing “Black Widow” on Disney+ the same day the film went to theater.
Actress Scarlett Johansson has filed a lawsuit against Disney, claiming the company breached her contract by releasing “Black Widow” on its streaming service, Disney+.
According to CNN, the film was released simultaneously in both theaters and over Disney+.
In her complaint, Johansson states that her contract with Disney stipulates that her salary was to be primarily based on Black Widow’s box office receipts. By releasing the movie on Disney+, Johansson said Disney deprived her of further income.
“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’,” the lawsuit claims. “As Ms. Johansson, Disney, Marvel, and most everyone else in Hollywood knows, a ‘theatrical release’ is a release that is exclusive to movie theaters.”
“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 theaters,” the complaint adds.
However, Disney has denied Johansson’s allegations. In a press release, a Disney spokesperson suggested that, not only is the lawsuit lacking merit, but that Johansson has shown a callous disregard for public health by demanding Black Widow be released exclusively in theaters amidst the ongoing coronavirus 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 $20 million she has received to date,” Disney said.
CNN observes that Johansson’s lawsuit comes at a pivotal moment for the film industry. Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hollywood has increasingly come to rely on streaming services to bolster and replace profits lost by cinema closures and suspensions.
John Berlinski, an attorney for Johansson, said that Disney has a clear-cut—if dishonest—game plan: using the “new normal” to increase its Disney+ subscriber base.
“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,’ Berlinski told CNN. “But ignoring the contracts of the artists responsible for the success its films in furtherance of this short-sighted strategy violates their rights and we look forward to proving this in court.”
Berlinski said that Johansson’s lawsuit will “surely not be the last 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.”