Scarlett Johansson sues Disney over ‘Black Widow’ release

Black Widow is doing pretty well in theaters, all things considered. It grossed around $ 157 million in the United States and over $ 320 million worldwide. This ranks among the lowest box office totals ever for a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie (currently only The Incredible Hulk is lower). But given that cinemas have barely recovered from extended shutdowns due to the Covid pandemic – which is far from over – these numbers are quite impressive.

Still, there’s no question that those numbers should have been higher – and would have been higher if Disney hadn’t made the decision to simultaneously release Black Widow on their Disney + streaming service, where customers could pay a fee. “Premier Access” to watch Black Widow while it was in multiplexes. And now that decision and result has sparked legal action against the star of the film, Scarlett Johansson.

She filed a lawsuit against Disney this week, claiming that “her contract was broken when the media giant released the film on its Disney + streaming service at the same time as its theatrical debut.” The lawsuit alleges that “Disney intentionally tricked Marvel into breaking the deal,” without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Johansson from taking full advantage of her market with Marvel.

In other words, Scarlett Johansson’s salary for Black Widow largely depended on the film’s box office performance. The more money the film made, the more money she made. Because Black Widow was intended for a theatrical release, her contract did not provide for her to receive any benefit from the Disney + revenue from the film. (Disney claimed in one that the film grossed $ 60 million in Disney + fees in its opening weekend alone.)

When Warner Bros. also made the decision to release their entire 2021 movie roster on HBO Max, they renegotiated with many of their movie stars, paying $ 200 million to talents whose salaries were based on the theatrical performance of their films. According to Johansson’s lawsuit, according to the Wall Street Journal, “Ms. Johansson’s representatives sought to renegotiate her contract after learning about Black Widow’s double-exit strategy,” but “Disney and Marvel did not respond. Their sources say Johansson could lose “over $ 50 million” due to the decision to stream Black Widow sooner. Hence the costume.

Disney could choose to settle the case or fight in court. Whatever the outcome, it will likely have an impact on the future of Hollywood, where other stars could take similar lawsuits against other films that have been pushed to streaming, costing them a game. of their remuneration. And the longer the Covid pandemic continues, the more films – and the salaries of movie stars – that could be affected.

UPDATE: Disney responded to Johansson’s statement by saying it had “no merit” and claiming “to have fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney + with Premier Access has significantly increased. improved her ability to earn additional compensation in addition to the $ 20 million she has received to date. They also said that Johansson’s trial is “sad and painful in its callous disregard for the horrific and protracted global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic ”.

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