“To maximize these receipts, and thereby protect her financial interests, Ms. Johansson extracted a promise from Marvel that the release of the picture would be a ‘theatrical release,'” the suit claimed. “As Ms. Johansson, Disney, Marvel, and most everyone else in Hollywood knows, a ‘theatrical release’ is a release that is exclusive to movie theatres. Disney was well aware of this promise, but nonetheless directed Marvel to violate its pledge and instead release the picture on the Disney+ streaming service the very same day it was released in movie theatres.”
“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 $20 million she has received to date,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement.
The suit comes at a pivotal moment for Hollywood, as the pandemic has accelerated several trends at once. Streaming has become the focal point of Hollywood while movie theaters and the box office struggle to return to normalcy following a pandemic that ravaged its business.
While other studios have done a same-day streaming and theatrical releases, the “Black Widow” news stood out because Marvel is the biggest blockbuster brand in all of Hollywood, bringing in nearly $23 billion at the global box office since 2008.
“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,” John Berlinski, attorney for Johansson, told CNN Business. “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 added that 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.”