Scarlett Johansson, star of Marvel’s Black Widow, filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Walt Disney Company stating that her contract was breached when the film was released on Disney+ at the same time it debuted in theaters.
The complaint states that the simultaneous release substantially reduced the income she should’ve received that was partially based on the box office ticket sales.
In a response Thursday afternoon, Disney states that the lawsuit has “no merit whatsoever” and called it “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Disney continued their response by stating that they have “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.”
Friday morning, Bryan Lourd, Johansson’s agent, shared a statement with E! News saying that Disney has “shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t. Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions.”
Lourd continued saying, “The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of. Scarlett is extremely proud of the work that she, and all of the actors, writers, directors, producers, and the Marvel creative team have been a part of for well over a decade.” He finished by adding, “Disney’s direct attack on her character and all else they implied is beneath the company that many of us in the creative community have worked with successfully for decades.”
In reading the back and forth statements between Johannson’s agent and Disney, this appears to be an emotionally charged battle that is not going to be settled any time soon.
As we know, Black Widow was not the first film that has debuted on Disney+ simultaneously with its theatrical release. Mulan, Cruella, and most recently, Jungle Cruise, have all made their debut in this hybrid way.
Forbes reported that Black Widow has earned over $159M at the domestic box office since its debut on July 9th plus over $319M at theaters worldwide. They also report that more than $60M was earned in rental fees on Disney+ during opening weekend and that Johansson could’ve potentially earned more than $50M in bonuses if the film had only a theatrical release.
What are your thoughts on this situation? Should the contract between actors and film studios have been revised if they were signed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!