Scarlett Johansson Is Suing Disney for Breach of Contract Over ‘Black Widow’ Movie Release
It’s no surprise that the pandemic has changed the way many of us watch movies. With the growing popularity of streaming services and movies being released directly to streaming services like Disney+ and HBO Max sometimes instead of a traditional movie theater release and other times released simultaneously, it can be extremely tempting to stay home and watch a new release instead of venturing to a theater.
The pandemic closed movie theaters for awhile, and even with theaters open again, many people feel safer watching movies at home. Others find it more convenient. Yet others could save a lot of money by paying $30 to watch a new release on Disney+ instead of paying for everyone in the family to go to a movie theater.
While movie watchers may like the option of watching a new release on a streaming service, movie stars would prefer you head to your local movie theater. That’s because many A+ stars have a huge part of their compensation tied to box office numbers. When ticket sales reach certain benchmarks, they get huge bonuses. If you’re sitting at home watching the movie instead, then they may not get those bonuses.
The Marvel movie “Black Widow” was the most successful movie release since the beginning of the pandemic, but star Scarlett Johansson is far from happy about the box office numbers.
Disney released “Black Widow” simultaneously in movie theaters and on Disney+. Johansson’s lawyers say this is a breach of her contract with Disney and Marvel. Even before the pandemic, Johansson was concerned that Disney might choose to release the movie on Disney+ instead of in theaters. Dave Galluzzi, Marvel’s Chief Counsel, promised Johansson’s lawyers via email that the movie would premier in theaters and added, “We understand that should the plan change, we would need to discuss this with you and come to an understanding as the deal is based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses.”
In a statement to Variety, one of Johansson’s lawyers, John Berlinski, explained, “It’s no secret that Disney is releasing films like Black Widow directly onto Disney Plus 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. 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.”
Do you think Johansson will win the case against Disney? Do you think other actors who were in movies that were released simultaneously in theaters and on streaming services will follow Johansson’s example and sue for breach of contract?