A Black Widow lawsuit? Yeah, you did read that right, Scarlet Johansson is suing Disney over Black Widow being released on Disney+ and not exclusively in the cinema.
We have had a couple of articles on how movie theatres are not happy with Black Widow, but now it seems neither is the main star.
In a lawsuit that was filed last Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, attorneys for Johansson are saying that the actress’ contract was in breach when Disney opted not to make Black Widow exclusive to cinemas. They claim that because of the simultaneous release in theatres and on streaming, the tickets sales at the box office were not as they should have been.
Johansson had the chance to make extra compensation for the movie which was directly linked to how the movie performed at the box office. If it hit certain targets or benchmarks, she would have had extra bonuses.
Part of the lawsuit states :
“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.”
Disney announced in March that several of its 2021 movies, including Black Widow, would premiere simultaneously in movie theatres and on the Disney+ streaming service for an additional $30. In July, Black Widow opened to $80 million at the box office for the US and Canada but earned an additional $60 million on Disney+.
At the moment, with a total of $320 million, Black Widow is one of the lowest-grossing of Marvel movies. According to the lawsuit, the stock of Disney rose after the company announced the rental figures.
The Wall Street Journal, who broke the news of the lawsuit, reports that sources close to Johansson estimate that the decision to release the movie on the streaming service, meant the losses of nearly $50 million in bonuses.
Many stars include backend profit as part of their contracts for a movie. They get paid, but then they get bonuses if the movie does well at the box office. With COVID19 hitting hard, streaming services have become much more popular and people are opting to stay at home instead of going to the cinema. However, some stars don’t see any of the bonuses from streaming sales/subscriptions.
When Warner Brothers put most of their movies on to HBO Max, realizing that a lot of cinemas were still being affected by the pandemic, the studio still had to pay tens of millions of dollars to the stars of the films including people like Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves, and Will Smith to avoid their own lawsuit.
It turns out that the management team for Johansson was worried about Black Widow debuting on Disney+ even before the pandemic lockdown. As part of the Black Widow lawsuit, there are shared emails from Johansson’s team asking the studio that the movie be premiered exclusively in cinemas. In reply, Marvel Chief Counsel Dave Galluzzi promised a traditional theatrical bow, but added :
“We understand that should the plan change, we would need to discuss this with you and come to an understanding as the deal is based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses.”
That’s all we know at the moment, but this is going to be interesting as it unfolds. I wonder who will play Scarlett in the movie when it comes out?
As the news of this is breaking, some more details have come in. Disney has now hit back at Scarlett Johansson, saying in a statement about her breach of contract lawsuit :
“There is no merit whatsoever to this filing, the lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Disney said that Johansson had been paid $20 million for the movie and argued that :
“…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.”
I’m guessing there won’t be a Black Widow 2 any time soon! Who will win the Black Widow lawsuit? Do we pick sides?