Actress Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit against Disney on Thursday over their decision to release Black Widow on Disney+ at the same time it hit theaters.
Attorneys for Johansson allege that the star’s contract was breached when the studio opted not to debut the film exclusively in theaters. Much of Johansson’s compensation is tied to the box office performance of Black Widow.
“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 suit reads.
The suit continues: “Disney chose to placate Wall Street investors and pad its bottom line, rather than allow its subsidiary Marvel to comply with the agreement. To no one’s surprise, Disney’s breach of the Agreement successfully pulled millions of fans away from the theatres and toward its Disney+ streaming service.”
John Berlinski, an attorney for Johansson, told CNN Business, “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.”
He added that 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.”
Disney has since responded with a harsh statement, saying that Johansson’s lawsuit is “distressing”—suggesting the studio has no intention of backing down.
“There is no merit whatsoever to this filing,” Disney stated. “The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A spokesperson told Deadline, “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.”
Currently, Black Widow is grossing $319 million globally, setting it on the track to being one of the lowest-grossing Marvel movies ever.
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