Scarlett Johansson is suing the Walt Disney Company for releasing Black Widow in theaters and on Disney+ at the same time. The actress filed a lawsuit Thursday Los Angeles Superior Court alleging her contract had been breached when the company released her solo film on the streaming service, reports The Wall Street Journal, claiming her agreement with Disney's Marvel Entertainment guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release and that her salary was largely based on box office earnings.
In the filing, Johansson's representatives claim to have sought theatrical release assurances as early as 2019 when Disney+ was preparing to launch, and Marvel's chief counsel confirmed that Black Widow would be released like other Marvel Cinematic Universe films. "We understand that should the plan change, we would need to discuss this with you and come to an understanding as the deal is based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses," the response reads.
Johansson's counsel also claims that when Black Widow was announced as being released in theaters and streaming on the same day, she attempted to renegotiate with Marvel, but did not get a response from Disney or Marvel. "Disney intentionally induced Marvel's breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel," the suit says, as per WSJ. Disney has yet to release a public response.
John Berlinski, an attorney at Kasowitz Benson Torres who represents Johansson, told CNBC that Johansson was wrongly being taken advantage of, despite the terms of her contract. "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," he shared in a statement via email. "But ignoring the contracts of the artists 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."