On Thursday, Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit against Walt Disney Co. over its release of Black Widow on its streaming platform, Disney Plus.
According to court documents, the lawsuit claims that Johansson’s contract was breached when the film was released on the streaming platform and alleged that the studio sacrificed the movie’s box office potential in order to grow its streaming service.
Disney slammed the suit stating that there was no merit to it.
In a statement, a Disney spokesperson responded, “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 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.”
Marvel’s Black Widow is among numerous event movies that have debuted simultaneously on streaming and in theaters because of the pandemic.
Its release was delayed more than a year amid the COVID-19 crisis and it debuted earlier in July in theaters around the globe as well as on Disney+ Premier Access for an additional $30. Disney took the unusual step of announcing Disney+ revenue over the film’s opening weekend, saying it had earned $60 million.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, states that Black Widow had been guaranteed a wide theatrical release when Johansson signed her deal with Marvel. According to the complaint, Disney tortiously interfered with that deal for its own advantage.
“Why would Disney forgo hundreds of millions of dollars in box office receipts by releasing the Picture in theatres at a time when it knew the theatrical market was ‘weak,’ rather than waiting a few months for that market to recover?” the complaint asks. “On information and belief, the decision to do so was made at least in part because Disney saw the opportunity to promote its flagship subscription service using the Picture and Ms. Johansson, thereby attracting new paying monthly subscribers, retaining existing ones, and establishing Disney+ as a must-have service in an increasingly competitive marketplace.”
The complaint adds that Disney’s actions “not only increased the value of Disney+, but it also intentionally saved Marvel (and thereby itself) what Marvel itself referred to as ‘very large box office bonuses’ that Marvel otherwise would have been obligated to pay Ms. Johansson.”
The complaint further states that Disney made no attempt to redo her deal once the decision was made to send Black Widow to streaming. “Disney and Marvel largely ingored Ms. Johansson, essentially forcing her to file this action,” the action states.
Through her suit, the actress also alleges that Disney knew that streaming the blockbuster would dissuade attendance from moviegoers, including repeat moviegoers, and it did so anyway, knowingly and intentionally, thereby leading to the abysmal performance of the film at the box office.