Scarlett Johansson has just filed a lawsuit against Disney for breach of contract, alleging they were obligated to release ‘Black Widow’ in the theaters exclusively and not include streaming it on Disney+.
According to legal documents obtained by The Blast, Johansson filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Court, which will have major implications for Hollywood studios, after challenging the decision by Disney to release her film on a streaming service. As you know, Marvel’s ‘Black Widow‘ is among several movies that debuted simultaneously on streaming and in theaters because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this case, Disney added ‘Black Widow’ to their ‘Premier Plus’ section, which costs consumers an additional $30.
In the lawsuit, Johansson says she signed a deal with Marvel that guaranteed an “exclusive” theatrical release and failed to do so by putting it on the streaming platform. Why do you ask? Well, Scarlett says the company did it for its own advantage, to gather and keep new subscribers.
“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 suit asks.
Adding, “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. Johnasson, thereby attracting new paying monthly subscribers, retaining existing ones, and establishing Disney+ as a must-have service in an increasingly competitive marketplace.”
According to the lawsuit, there are “Two specific reasons why Disney would do this: drive up Disney’s stock price from Disney+ subscriber base, and substantially devalue Ms. Johansson’s agreement and thereby enrich itself.”
Johansson’s attorney issued a statement explaining the actress’s position, saying, “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. But ignoring the artists’ contracts responsible for the success of its films in furtherance of this short-sighted strategy violates their rights, and we look forward to proving as much in court. This will surely not be the last case 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.”
In the end, the lawsuit explains Marvel and Johansson agreed that her compensation would be largely on “box office” receipts. But, Disney was well aware of this promise, — nonetheless directed Marvel to violate its pledge and instead release the Picture on the Disney+ streaming service and makes it clear she is a very important asset to them.
“Over the past decade, Scarlett Johansson’s work has generated billions of dollars for Marvel Studios, and by extension, its parent company, Disney,” the actress’s legal team pointed out.