Scarlett Johansson is done with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but she’s not leaving quietly. On her way out, she hit her soon-to-be-former employers with a lawsuit. On Thursday, the actress filed against Disney, claiming that by releasing Black Widow, her long-awaited solo MCU movie, simultaneously on PVOD Disney+, they breached her contract. No so, the mega-corporation later claimed in a response that found them not mincing words.
“There is no merit whatsoever to this filing,” Disney said in a statement, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”
Johansson’s lawsuit alleged that her contract guaranteed that Black Widow would receive an exclusive theatrical release, and that they should have waited till theater-going was seen as more safe than it was when it was released in early July.
“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?” reads the filing.
It also charges that Disney saw it as an “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.”
Johansson’s contract, moreover, was allegedly not renegotiated before they announced Black Widow would wind up on Disney+ at the same time it hit theaters, thereby forcing her to file a lawsuit.
Upon its release during the second week of July, Black Widow’s relatively large box office debut was seen as a harbinger that movie theatergoing was back. Disney also claimed that its Disney+ bow was also a big money-maker. Its box office haul has subsequently dropped precipitously, making it one of the lowest-grossing MCU titles. Its Blu-ray debut was bumped extra early, to mid-August. Of course, this has all happened amidst a once-in-a-century public health crisis that has been surging once more.