For a bit there, things were starting to look really ugly on the Disney/ Marvel front with Scarlett Johansson and her legal team gearing up for a major lawsuit against the Mouse House. It was an effort to recoup what they felt was short shrift on money from Black Widow. The impending lawsuit was starting to look like a referendum on movie studios in a new age of streaming services and platforms. With Johansson apparently dug in on her position, things appeared headed to open court. But then, according to Puck News, Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings changed all of that, and the two sides ended up settling out of court for an undisclosed, but likely massive, sum.
The contention that Scarlett Johansson and her team made was that Disney had breached their contract over Black Widow when the decision was made to release the movie on Disney+ simultaneous with the theatrical release. Because Johansson’s contract tied compensation to box office performance and not streaming dollars, it was thought an enormous amount of money was left on the table when it came to the actress’s paycheck. Both sides traded barbs in the media and Johansson’s team even filed for discovery in the case, wanting Disney to open up the books and show what was really happening behind the financial scenes.
Then along comes Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. This is a character who many of the most faithful Marvel fans aren’t all that familiar with who comes out with a Labor Day movie that only releases in theaters. Sure, it was a different time than in the spring when certain places still weren’t fully open because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the box office wasn’t performing at full strength. But while Shang-Chi was a massive win for Disney and Marvel, it did them no favors in the Scarlett Johansson lawsuit. That’s because the film set a Labor Day weekend record, earning $94 million dollars over that initial stretch, easily the best ever for what is often viewed as a major lull in box office sales.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings went on to earn about $387 million at the worldwide box office. By comparison, Black Widow earned around $379 million dollars to date. Scarlett Johansson and company would probably make the contention that considering the longevity of her character throughout the entire Avengers timeline and the star power of Johansson herself, these movies should not have been all that close in terms of box office performance. And it looks like Disney likely saw it the same way.
When it was all said and done, the two sides were able to settle on a number out of court, one that apparently was suitable to everyone involved. And Disney was able to lock Scarlett Johansson in for another project as part of the deal. She’ll be starring in the Tower of Terror adaptation with Disney working overtime to develop high-profile movies around popular rides and attractions at their theme parks.
Look, folks can say whatever they want, but in the end, the money talks in situations like this. After the performance of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, they knew they didn’t have much in the way of a financial leg to stand on when it came to saying that the Black Widow release was simply a byproduct of our pandemic times. They handed over the bag and got to work making more movies with Scarlett Johansson.