Scarlett Johansson files suit over Disney+ ‘Black Widow’ release
Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit against the Walt Disney Company on Thursday, alleging that the company broke her contract by releasing the film Black Widow, in which she played the title character, on Disney+ the same day it was released in theatres, as the film industry undergoes a transformation amid the rise of online streaming and the pandemic-related box office slump.
According to a court filing supplied to Forbes by Johansson’s lawyer, Johansson’s lawsuit claims that Disney violated a long-standing agreement with the actress to release Black Widow as a “broad theatrical release.”
Disney said the complaint had “no merit” and that it had followed her contract. It added in a statement that streaming the film “substantially boosted her (Johansson’s) opportunity to collect extra pay on top of the $20 million she has received to date.”
Johansson claimed in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court that the film’s split release plan had decreased her remuneration, which was based in part on box office profits from what was supposed to be an exclusive run in theatres.
“Black Widow” debuted on July 9 in theaters and for a $30 charge on the Disney+ streaming service.
During the coronavirus outbreak, Disney experimented with the hybrid pattern for a few films in order to increase their streaming service when many movie theatres across the world were shuttered.
Johansson’s lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that Disney wanted to steer audiences toward Disney+, “where it could keep the revenues for itself while simultaneously growing the Disney+ subscriber base, a proven way to boost Disney’s stock price.”
“Second, Disney wanted to substantially devalue Ms. Johansson’s agreement and thereby enrich itself,” the lawsuit said.
Unspecified damages are sought in the lawsuit, which will be assessed at trial.
As media corporations aim to expand their streaming services by offering premium programmes to entice members, the conclusion might have far-reaching implications in Hollywood.
The Disney statement said the lawsuit was “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Black Widow,” the story of the Russian assassin turned Avenger, pulled in $80 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices over its debut weekend. The movie also generated $60 million through Disney+ purchases, Disney said.
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