If Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney over the studio’s dual release of Black Widow in theaters and on Disney+ simultaneously hasn’t caused enough fuss on its own, the corporation has fired back a scathing response, in which they branded the actress “callous” and even went to the unprecedented lengths of revealing just how much money the actress has made from the movie to make their point.
In the lawsuit filed today, Johansson made the claim that the release of the movie on Disney+ breached her contract and caused a loss of theatrical revenue that she would have received if the movie had been released only in cinemas.
A spokes person for the Walt Disney Company said, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. 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.”
The simultaneous release of Black Widow on Disney+ Premier Access was the biggest Disney release to use the day and date strategy, although it was not alone in doing so, with Warner Bros. allowing many of their big films such as Godzilla vs Kong streaming on HBO Max for a rental fee from the same date as the movie launched in cinemas. The necessity to allow people to rent movies at home rather than being forced to go to the theater was born from a public trepidation over returning to the confines of a cinema screen while the Covid pandemic continued to rage across the world.
The lawsuit claims that Disney used the movie to build their streaming service subscriber numbers and give its stock price a boost coming out of the pandemic, but it goes on to say that the company’s move is at the expense of Scarlett Johansson whose “compensation would largely be based on box office receipts”. It went on to say that the actress has been given a promise that the movie would be a theatrical release, which has been broken.
In a statement, Johansson’s lawyer, John 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.”
With Disney coming out fighting and going on record to disclose that actress’ $20 million paycheck so far, a move that is usually unheard of in the secretive world of moviemaking, it is clear that the House of Mouse will not be taking this one lying down. This news arrives via Deadline.