Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson filed suit against Marvel parent company Disney on Thursday, alleging that the decision to stream the movie on Disney+ while also releasing it in theaters breached her contract and could cost her tens of millions of dollars.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Johansson’s lawsuit contends that her initial agreement with Marvel guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release, and her salary was largely based on the film’s box office performance. The decision to release the movie on Disney+ is projected to cost Johansson more than $50 million, a source familiar with her contract tells WSJ.
“Disney intentionally induced Marvel’s breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel,” the suit alleges. After learning that Black Widow would also be available to stream, Johansson’s representatives attempted to renegotiate her contract, according to the suit, but Disney and Marvel did not respond.
UPDATE: Thursday afternoon, Disney told The New York Times that there is “no merit whatsoever” to Johansson’s lawsuit and called it “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.”
Black Widow, starring Johansson as the titular Marvel superhero, was originally scheduled to hit theaters in May 2020, but was pushed back numerous times due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, which closed movies theaters around the world. In March, Disney announced that Black Widow would debut in theaters on July 9, but would also be available to stream the same day on Disney+ for a $30 “Premier Access” fee, following other Disney releases like Mulan and Raya and the Last Dragon.
Disney proclaimed earlier this month that Black Widow earned more than $60 million from Disney+ Premier Access streams in its opening weekend, to go along with $80 million at the domestic box office. That indicates a nearly even split between streamers and moviegoers: In a recent TVLine reader poll, nearly 52 percent of those who responded said they had watched Black Widow via Disney+ (with Premier Access) versus in a theater.