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Scarlett Johansson sues Disney over its multi-platform release strategy for Black Widow

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By Shawn Lim | Reporter, Asia Pacific

July 30, 2021 | 3 min read

Scarlett Johansson, the star of the recently-released Black Widow film, which was launched on the Disney+ streaming platform, is suing Disney.

Disney had announced the film, which cost $200m to produce, would be screened in cinemas while also being available to rent on Disney+ for $30.

Disney claimed that it made $60m via rentals in its opening weekend and globally it has made $319m, which makes it one of the lowest-performing Marvel films to date.

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The actress claimed that her salary was based on the box office performance of the film

Why is Disney being sued?

  • The suit filed by Johansson said: “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.”

  • The actress claimed that her salary was based on the box office performance of the film, which opened strong with $80m in the US, but suffered the steepest second-week decline of any entry within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, dropping 67%.

  • Johansson’s lawyers claimed they reached out to Disney in 2019 with concerns about the film being given a multi-platform release. They later tried to renegotiate her contract after the release strategy was changed.

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  • “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,” said John Berlinski, an attorney at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP who represents Johansson.

  • Disney responded by saying: “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.”

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