The Marvel star filed a lawsuit Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging her contract was breached when the company released “Black Widow” on its streaming service Disney+ at the same time it debuted in theaters.
Johansson claims her agreement with Disney’s Marvel Entertainment guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release for her solo film, and her salary was based, in large part, on the box office performance.
Basically, ScarJo had negotiated a chunk of her salary to be variable based on the box office performance of the movie. Her (her lawyers) argument is that because Disney did a simultaneous release without her consent, this tanked her potential salary.
“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, an attorney at Kasowitz Benson Torres who represents Johansson, told CNBC.
“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 said via email. “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.”
I think there is 2 ways of looking at this.
The first is that when this contract was negotiated, obviously nobody could have predicted COVID and the effects it would have on the industry. And while Disney has a contractual responsibility to ScarJo, they also have a MASSSIVE fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders. Even if the premiere access thing was a bandaid, shortsighted, or whatever else you want to call it, the mouse's responsibility to them supersedes all.
The second is that Disney did straight up fuck with ScarJo's money, which is true. It was like a team singing a quarterback to an incentive-based contract, then dropping every other offensive starter. That might not be the best analogy, but it worked in my head for a minute. Point is, ScarJo had a vested interest in the box office success of the movie, but got no say in how it was released.
Black Widow was a solid movie and had, by far, the highest grossing opening weekend of ANY movie since March of 2020. I don't blame ScarJo for wanting to get a little more dough from her characters Swan Song. I just hope she doesn't plan on doing any other projects with the biggest media conglomerate on earth anytime soon.
The interesting thing is going to be if this opens the floodgates for other actors to do the same. The Jungle Cruise is going to premiere access soon, and a ton of Warner Brothers movies are dumping to HBO Max over the next few months like 'The Suicide Squad' and 'Dune'. Actors and directors have been openly pissed off about this, but we will see if this inspires them to take it to the courts.