LOS ANGELES – Scarlett Johansson is suing the Walt Disney Co. over its streaming release of “Black Widow,” which she said breached her contract and deprived her of potential earnings.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the “Black Widow” star and executive producer said her contract guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news of the lawsuit.
Johansson's potential earnings were tied to the box office performance of the film, which the company released simultaneously in theaters and on its streaming service Disney+ for a $30 rental.
“In the months leading up to this lawsuit, Ms. Johansson gave Disney and Marvel every opportunity to right their wrong and make good on Marvel's promise,” the lawsuit said. “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.”
Disney said the lawsuit has “no merit whatsoever.”
“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 a statement. “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.”
After its release was delayed more than a year because of COVID-19, “Black Widow” debuted to a pandemic-best of $80 million in North America and $78 million from international theaters three weeks ago, but theatrical grosses declined sharply after that. In its second weekend in release, the National Association of Theater Owners issued a rare statement criticizing the strategy asserting that simultaneous release lends itself only to lost profits and higher quality piracy.