Scarlett Johansson is taking the Walt Disney Company to court — potentially ending a long and fruitful relationship with the studio!
Why? Because she’s not happy with how they’re using their streaming service with regards to new movie releases during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic!
The A-lister filed a lawsuit on Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging that her contract with the company was breached regarding Marvel Studios‘ Black Widow because it was released on Disney’s new streaming service Disney+ at the same time as it debuted nationally in theaters.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Johansson is balking at that simultaneous streaming release — something that has become a regular thing recently in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic — because her contract called for an exclusive theatrical release for the film. Her salary on Black Widow was based in large part on the box office performance, so with a streaming release — and thus a less-impressive box office take, she claims Disney is ultimately paying her significantly less by offering movie-goers an alternative to theaters.
Johansson’s attorney John Berlinski from the law firm of Kasowitz Benson Torres spoke to CNBC about the matter on Thursday, confirming the legal action. He went a step further, alleging that Disney was using the pandemic as an excuse to pull this sleight of hand — and thus deprive stars from their contractually agreed-upon paydays. Berlinski said:
“It’s no secret that Disney is releasing films like Black Widow directly onto Disney+ 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. 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. This will surely not 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.”
Of course, Disney has long held off on releasing major titles — including Black Widow — after the pandemic pretty much shut down the movie theater industry over the past 18 months. Per CNBC, Disney has previously called this hybrid release model of theatrical debuts and streaming availability a “temporary pandemic fix,” and plans to go forward releasing the rest of their 2021 slate in theaters as normal.
Still, it would seem that ScarJo has an interesting argument and potentially a strong case. Heck, her team worked hard to negotiate into her contract a percentage of the theatrical gross of Black Widow — which wrapped filming before the end of the pandemic, in October 2019. At that point, the film was expected to be a huge hit at the 2020 Summer box office, and thus, ScarJo was all set to get PAID.
As the pandemic popped up months later, then, the landscape seriously changed when it quickly became clear fans were not going to be able to go out to the theaters in droves like usual — and Black Widow‘s release was then delayed three times as Disney and Marvel tried to figure out a route for it to take through the ongoing pandemic. And now, well, here we are.
Black Widow has made about $160 million domestic, and at this rate experts don’t expect it to go much higher. Compare that to her last outing, Avengers Endgame, which ended with over $850 mil domestic. Obviously that was a special case, but it’s clear the film would have been on track to make far more than it’s at. The nearest comparison would probably be Spider-Man: Far From Home, the only other “smaller” individual superhero sequel to come out post-Endgame. And it’s made less than half of that flick’s $390 mil domestic.
As far as how much Disney+ has made on the $30 rentals on the streaming service? Well, they aren’t giving up that info, so who knows…
Whether or not ScarJo has a solid case, the move alone is enough to make us wonder if her relationship with the studio will be able to continue. Her character is “dead” in the MCU, but we’re talking about a sci-fi/fantasy world where she could easily come back for future appearances. Not to mention her next big project she had lined up is also with Disney, a big screen adaptation of the Tower of Terror ride. No word yet if that will continue.
What do U make of this lawsuit, Perezcious readers??
Can U see ScarJo’s point here?! Or do U think Disney was in the right, doing whatever they could between box office and streaming to get the film out mid-pandemic?!
Sound OFF with your take on this contentious lawsuit down in the comments (below)…
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