Scarlett Johansson’s time in the MCU may be over, but she’s not done with Disney yet. The Black Widow star, who portrayed Natasha Romanoff in nine Marvel Cinematic Universe films over the past 11 years, is suing Disney over an alleged breach of contract.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Johansson filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday, alleging that Disney’s decision to release Black Widow on its Disney+ streaming service the same day of its theatrical release breached her contract.
Johansson claims that her contract guaranteed the film would be exclusively released in theaters, and that her salary was based largely on the box office performance of the film. The simultaneous release on Disney+ through Premier Access will reportedly lose Johansson $50 million.
According to her lawsuit, “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.”
A copy of the lawsuit obtained by Deadline reveals that in May 2019, with Disney set to debut its Disney+ streaming service that November, Johansson sought assurances that Black Widow would remain an exclusive theatrical release. Her representatives received the following response from Marvel’s Chief Counsel:
“We totally understand that Scarlett’s willingness to do the film and
her whole deal is based on the premise that the film would be
widely theatrically released like our other pictures. 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.”
Despite this assurance from Marvel, the lawsuit claims that when Disney announced a day-and-date Disney+ Premier Access release of Black Widow in March 2021, Johansson’s representatives were “ignored” when they tried to negotiate with Marvel.
Further, it notes that other studios like Warner Bros. compensated their talent when deciding to do a day-and-date theaterical-PVOD release. Warner Bros. reportedly paid $200M to talent and agents after announcing all of its 2021 theatrical releases would receive a day-and-date streaming release on HBO Max.
Black Widow released simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access on July 9, 2021. In its opening weekend, it brought in $80.3M at the box office and an additional $60M through Disney+ Premier Access. But movie theater owners are blaming its steep box office decline in the following weeks on its streaming release. In its second weekend, Black Widow dropped -67%, the steepest second weekend drop for an MCU film distributed by Disney.
On Friday, Disney responded to the lawsuit in a statement claiming it “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.”