Scarlett Johansson Sues Disney Over Theatrical/Streaming Hybrid Release of 'Black Widow'
Well, folks, it seems Yelena Belova's superhero landing wasn't the only “disgusting” thing about Marvel's latest phase 4 flick, Black Widow – at least in the eyes of star Scarlett Johansson. On Thursday, the actress filed a lawsuit against Disney, Marvel's parent company, alleging that the film's tandem theatrical/streaming rollout was not only disgusting but also a breach of her contract. Claiming that the media company guaranteed her film would be exclusively released in theaters, Johannson said in the filing that a significant portion of her salary was based on how the film fared at the box office, making this arrangement less-than-ideal.
“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,” read the suit, per the Wall Street Journal.
Although Black Widow raked in $80 million in U.S. theaters during its opening weekend, Disney's biggest opening weekend in North America since the pre-pandemic release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker back in December 2019, per The Hollywood Reporter, the movie also brought in $60 million on Disney+, where subscribers could access the film for an additional $30, a model that John Berlinski, the attorney representing Johansson, claims was a calculated business move.
“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,” Berlinski explained to CNBC via email.
Although Disney has stayed tight-lipped on the matter so far, Berlinski says that his client's filing isn't likely to be an isolated incident, anticipating that more stars will speak out about these integrated release models in the near future.
“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 honor its contracts.”
So, folks here's to what may be the end of hybrid release models. Although we'd miss streaming movies the same day they hit theaters, to quote Yelena, “this would be a cool way to die.”
Top Image: Disney/Marvel