Yesterday, Scarlett Johansson made big waves after the Wall Street Journal reported that the actress has filed a lawsuit against Disney claiming that the company breached their contract when pivoting Black Widow from a traditional theatrical window to a hybrid release placing the film on Disney+ (via Premier Access) without adjusting the existing contract after multiple requests from the Johansson’s reps were allegedly ignored.
The outlet reporting that moving Black Widow to Disney+ could end up seeing Johansson lose a hefty $50 million in bonuses.
Disney has responded to the lawsuit with the following statement:
“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.”
“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,” John Berlinksi, Johansson’s attorney, told Business Insider.
Interestingly enough, while the statement says the suit doesn’t have “merit” they’re not willing to say they didn’t breach the contract. This is likely because that could be used against them if this goes to court as a public statement would be used as evidence. It’s worth mentioning that only a judge would be the one to gauge if this lawsuit has merit, not Disney’s fleet of lawyers that are likely looking to avoid paying out Johansson the millions she believes she is owed for as long as possible.
Scarlett’s contractual bonus/back-end deal with Marvel/Disney isn’t a new thing as other actors such as Robert Downey Jr. has had similar deals as an incentive to stick around beyond their original lengthy contract. When Johansson originally signed on to work with Marvel, she was low-balled during the Phase One era spearheaded by Ike Perlmutter having to commit to 6-9 films while other actors made much much more for the same level of work. The idea was that bonuses were established to reward legacy actors for future/past contributes to the Marvel franchise. In the case of Black Widow, she was a producer and helped shape the film.
It’s notable that while Disney is attempting to shame Johansson to filing a lawsuit during the pandemic, the company is extremely comfortable laying off over 32,000 employees along with earning money from their theme parks and in-person theatrical releases as the Delta variant has been an increasing danger to the American public for months now.
During the opening weekend of Black Widow’s domestic release, Disney felt the need to gloat about earning a solid $80 million at the box office alongside another $60 million from Premier Access earnings as they issued a press release highlighting the money they made. Seemingly bragging they were able to get a large amount of people they were able to coax to theaters.
They’re also releasing Jungle Cruise this weekend as the CDC has revealed the Delta variant is as infectious as chicken pox and an indoor location is the perfect way that the virus could be transmitted to the unvaccinated.
Both NATO and IMAX have pointed to the Premier Access release for Black Widow’s huge drops between weekends that was directly connected to mass online piracy. A regular theatrical window would normally protect the studio from piracy tanking box office until the film hit VOD or home video. As most people wouldn’t be as interested in downloading a blurry cam version recorded on someone’s phone compared to an HD version ripped from the streaming source provided by Disney+.
SOURCE: WALL STREET JOURNAL