Scarlett Johansson - disney

Scarlett Johansson © Cover Images

Disney hits back at Scarlett Johansson’s ‘distressing’ lawsuit over ‘Black Widow’

Disney officials have insisted there is ‘no merit’ to Scarlett Johansson’s breach of contract lawsuit over the release of her movie ‘Black Widow’.

Scarlett Johansson - disney

Scarlett Johansson © Cover Images

Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney bosses over Black Widow‘s release structure.

The Marvel Studios superhero film in which the actress portrays Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, premiered on 29 June around the world, and was simultaneously released in the US in theatres and on Disney+ on 9 July.

Johansson’s contract: Exclusive cinema release

However, Johansson’s lawyers filed a lawsuit at the Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday 28 July in which they alleged that her contract with Disney’s Marvel Entertainment included a clause guaranteeing an exclusive release in cinemas, and claimed her salary was partly based on the box-office performance of the film.

The actress’s legal team also alleged that studio bosses wanted to debut Black Widow on Disney+ to generate interest in the streaming service.

“Why would Disney forgo hundreds of millions of dollars in box office receipts by releasing the Picture in theatres at a time when it knew the theatrical market was ‘weak,’ rather than waiting a few months for that market to recover?” the lawsuit questioned, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“On information and belief, the decision to do so was made at least in part because Disney saw the opportunity to promote its flagship subscription service using the Picture and Ms. Johansson, thereby attracting new paying monthly subscribers, retaining existing ones, and establishing Disney+ as a must-have service in an increasingly competitive marketplace.”

Disney responds to ‘distressing’ lawsuit

Disney officials have insisted there is “no merit” to Scarlett Johansson’s breach of contract lawsuit over the release of her movie Black Widow.

Responding to the legal action in a statement to multiple outlets, a Disney spokesman called Johansson’s claims “sad and distressing”.

“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,” the company spokesman stated, before claiming that her earnings have been “significantly enhanced” by the simultaneous cinema and streaming release.

Johansson’s lawyer John Berlinski told Variety that his client’s lawsuit could change how movie stars are compensated for a film’s performance in the streaming age.

Black Widow’ to be one of Marvel’s lowest-grossing films

“It’s no secret that Disney is releasing films like Black Widow directly onto Disney Plus 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 said.

“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.”

Black Widow, which was released earlier this month, followed the pattern for other films that have been released during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was shown in theatres but made available for purchase for a premium fee on Disney+.

On its opening weekend, Black Widow raked in $80 million (£57.35 million) from U.S. theatregoers and $60 million (£43 million) from at-home views. It is currently on track to be one of Marvel’s lowest-grossing releases.

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