The legal drama between Scarlett Johansson and Disney, which started after the actress sued the company over the losses she incurred because of Black Widow’s release on Disney+, is giving no signs of abetting anytime soon. Disney has responded to Johansson’s breach of contract lawsuit and criticized her for showing “callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Just 24 hours ago, Scarlett Johansson had filed the lawsuit with the Los Angeles Superior Court. She has alleged that as per the contract between her and Marvel Entertainment, Black Widow was confirmed to get an exclusive theatrical release. By releasing the film on Disney+ on the same day as its theatrical release, not only has Disney violated their agreement but also cost her a loss of approximately $50 million in backend compensation as because of its release on the streamer, Black Widow failed to meet the milestones needed to earn a high box office revenue, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Disney has released a scathing response to Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit and defended that when the company took the decision to release Black Widow on Disney+, it abided by all the terms in their agreement with the actress. In its statement (via Variety), Disney has stressed that the lawsuit holds no merit and is actually “sad and distressing” as it completely disregards the far-reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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 in its statement.
The company has shared that Scarlett Johansson has already received $20 million for starring in Black Widow and the release of the film on Disney+ has only extended the additional compensation she can earn. But Disney’s claims do nothing to change the fact that Black Widow is now counted amongst the lowest-grossing Marvel films. Despite a strong start at the box office, the revenue the film had the potential to earn with an exclusive theatrical release has been hampered such that its total gross currently stands at just $319 million globally.
In his statement to Variety, John Berlinski, an attorney for Scarlett Johansson, has addressed the lawsuit and called out Disney for “hiding behind COVID-19” when the real reason for releasing films like Black Widow on Disney+ is to amp up the number of subscribers for its streamer as well as its stock price. But by doing so, the company is blatantly disregarding the contracts with the artists who worked in these films just to fulfill its “short-sighted strategy.” Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney will help to prove that such decisions violate the rights of artists and will be instrumental in motivating others in Hollywood to stand up to this injustice, thus making Disney understand that “whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts.” On the other hand, the other leading actors in the film i.e., Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, and David Harbour have not come forward with similar grievances with the company.
For the year 2021, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, which was the star’s last outing as Natasha Romanoff in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was the only Marvel project that was slated to debut on the streamer and across theaters on the same day. Currently, there are no plans of applying the same practice to the upcoming films under Marvel Studios i.e., Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Thor: Love and Thunder, The Marvels, and Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania which will be getting an exclusive theatrical release globally.