Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson has filed a lawsuit with the Walt Disney Company, alleging breach of contract due to the film’s simultaneous premiere in theaters and on Disney+, the company’s streaming service.
The spinoff for the Marvel character opened to an $80 million domestic theatrical gross, $215 million worldwide figure, and $60 million in Disney+ Premiere Access sales. At the time, it represented the highest domestic box office opening since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite initially breaking a COVID-19 market record, Black Widow cratered to earth in its second weekend, grossing $26.25 million. According to TorrentFreak, the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe offering was the most-pirated title during the week of July 26, 2021.
Johansson’s attorney, John Berlinski of Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, said in a statement: “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 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.”
A Disney spokesperson issuing a public statement mentions, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.”
As the theatrical, Pay Video-on-Demand (PVOD), Subscription Video-on-Demand (SVOD) windows have shattered traditional rollouts during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, film studios and their corporate conglomerates have gone blow-to-blow with industry professionals. Denzel Washington has been reported to have been “blindsided” by the announcement of The Little Things coming to theaters and HBO Max, possibly due to potential loss of backend residuals and first-dollar gross afforded to the actor.
Economic anxiety has also affected studio filmmakers like Denis Villeneuve, who has publicly lambasted WarnerMedia’s decision to release Dune simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. He argues, “Warner Bros.’ decision means “Dune” won’t have the chance to perform financially in order to be viable and piracy will ultimately triumph. Warner Bros. might just have killed the “Dune” franchise.” As Johansson’s lawsuit enters the Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday, maybe we should ponder whether Villeneuve is right.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the filing of the lawsuit.