Famed American actress Scarlett Johansson has sued the Walt Disney Company for breach of contract, as, according to her, she was promised her female superhero film Black Widow will exclusively be released to theatres.
On Thursday, the Avengers actress claimed that studio’s decision to release the Marvel superhero movie on Disney+ and in theatres on the same day was in breach of her contract, which she says guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release of the film.
Her salary for the Marvel movie was largely based on theatrical performance, with bonuses when the film reached certain box office benchmarks.
Responding to Johansson’s lawsuit, the Walt Disney Co said there was "no merit" to the lawsuit, saying it had complied with her contract. The official statement further added that the release of the movie on its streaming platform had "significantly enhanced her (Johansson's) ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20 million she has received to date.”
Johansson's complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, argued that the dual release strategy of Black Widow had reduced her compensation, which was based partly on box office receipts from what was supposed to be an exclusive run in cinemas.
The action-packed Black Widow released on July 9 in theaters and for a $30 charge on the Disney+ streaming service.
Disney has been testing the hybrid pattern for some films during the coronavirus pandemic as the company tried to boost its streaming service while many movie theaters around the world were closed.
Johansson's lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that Disney wanted to steer audiences toward Disney+, "where it could keep the revenues for itself while simultaneously growing the Disney+ subscriber base, a proven way to boost Disney's stock price."
"Second, Disney wanted to substantially devalue Ms. Johansson’s agreement and thereby enrich itself," the lawsuit said. The suit seeks unspecified damages to be determined at trial.
The Disney statement said the lawsuit was "especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic."