‘Black Widow’ star says movie’s Disney+ release cost her box office earnings
Movie audiences may have appreciated being able to stream new releases at home during the pandemic. The safety factor of not going to a movie theater, plus the convenience of being able to watch from the comfort of your own couch, with all the pausing and noise you want has been a hit with fans.
The release “Black Widow” on Disney+ at the same time as it premiered in theaters hasn’t been such a big hit with the film’s star, Scarlett Johansson. That’s because part of her earnings was based on the box office revenue. That clause in her contract didn’t seem like a big deal in a pre-COVID world, but now Johansson is suing Disney because the stream is cutting into the theater revenue.
“To maximize these receipts, and thereby protect her financial interests, Ms. Johansson extracted a promise from Marvel that the release of the picture would be a ‘theatrical release,'” the suit says. “As Ms. Johansson, Disney, Marvel, and most everyone else in Hollywood knows, a ‘theatrical release’ is a release that is exclusive to movie theatres. Disney was well aware of this promise, but nonetheless directed Marvel to violate its pledge and instead release the picture on the Disney+ streaming service the very same day it was released in movie theatres.”
“Black Widow,” which comes with an extra charge on Disney+, took in about $80 million at the box office and $60 million from streaming views in its opening weekend.
Disney countered that releasing “Black Widow” on its streaming service with premier access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20 million she has received to date.” Disney’s harsh statement also tried to paint Johansson as a villain insensitive to the dangers of COVID. “The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” it read.
Legally speaking, Disney might be on solid ground, as the circumstances of the pandemic and simultaneous streaming release were unheard of at the time Johansson entered into her contract. Still, it will be a landmark case in entertainment law, and “Cruella” star Emma Stone is reportedly considering joining the suit. One would think Disney could work something out to give Johansson a cut of the streaming revenue if only to guard against big-name actors steering clear of working with the company, but the opening salvo signaled a contentious fight.