Scarlett Johansson, star of Marvel Entertainment’s Black Widow, has sued Marvel parent company Disney, alleging that the movie’s dual-release on streaming platform Disney+ as well as in theatres resulted in a violation of her contract — reports Business Insider.
Sources say Johansson, who plays Natasha Romanoff in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), lost out on $50 million USD in compensation as a result of Black Widow‘s online release.
The actress’s salary is largely dependent on box office performance, which took a hit with Black Widow‘s simultaneous release on Disney’s own streaming platform. The movie has billed $158 million USD in theatres so far, whereas streaming sales have netted Disney a cool $60 million USD.
With Disney+ Premiere Access, Black Widow costs a one-time fee of $34.99 CAD.
In an email included in Johansson’s lawsuit, Marvel chief counsel Dave Galluzzi is seen assuring the actress and her team that Black Widow would be exclusively released in theatres and not be made available to stream online immediately at release, which the film industry started seeing a lot of at the height of the pandemic.
Galluzzi also added that he would consult the actress if those plans changed since her deal “is based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses”.
A spokesperson for Disney has said that “there is no merit whatsoever” to the lawsuit, and that the filing was “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
John Berlinski, Johansson’s attorney, was quick to fire back and say that Disney is “hiding behind Covid-19 as a pretext”.
Disney added that it has “fully complied” with the actress’s contract, claiming that Black Widow‘s release on Disney+ will ultimately result in her being paid more than what she would have made with an exclusive theatrical release. Disney also publicly disclosed Johansson’s salary — $20 USD.
In an email on Thursday, Berlinski wrote that this lawsuit won’t 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..”
This is the first major lawsuit bred by the pandemic-induced online releases movies have seen over the course of the last year. Even Marvel Entertainment was reportedly unhappy with its first pandemic-era movie seeing a same-day release on streaming platforms after being delayed numerous times in hopes of a theatrical release.
Johansson’s lawsuit could have significant implications for how both studios and talent treat compensation and contracts as we venture into this new era of hybrid movie releases.
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