It’s no secret the film industry has been decimated by the ongoing pandemic with highly-anticipated films all facing some sort of cinematic delay. Marvel fans were finally treated to the release of Black Widow on July 9 after it was pushed back from the original release date of May 2020. In welcomed news, the film could be streamed for premium members on Disney+, particularly for regions which saw continued theatre closures.
However, leading lady Scarlett Johansson who plays Natasha Romanoff was not pleased with the launch. In turn, she is suing the Walt Disney Company for “intentional interference with contractual relations and inducing breach of contract.”
Court documents obtained by Wall Street Journal read:
“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 complaint stated. “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.”
In addition, the complaint states that the agreement with Disney was based on an exclusive theatrical release and that Johansson’s salary was partly based upon the performance of the box office. CNBC states that Black Widow earned just over $150 million USD in the US alone. Globally Forbes reports it garnered $200 million USD globally. Disney also states it earned over $60 million from its streaming service.
“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,” Scarlett’s attorney John Berlinski said in a statement to E! News. “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.”
He continued, “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 honour its contracts.”
It begs the question, where will the Black Widow go from here? How long does Johansson have before the character is stripped from her?
More to come.