Scarlett Johansson sues Disney over ‘Black Widow’ same-day streaming release

Scarlett Johansson, an American actress, has filed a lawsuit against Disney, the holding company of Marvel Studios, for allegedly violating the terms of her ‘Black Widow’ contract by releasing the Phase Four entry on both the theatres and Disney+ on the same day.

Black Widow is a Marvel Cinematic Universe film starring Scarlett Johansson that was initially released in 2020. When a sinister plot with connections to her past surfaces, Natasha Romanoff (Johansson), dubbed Black Widow, is forced to confront the darkest pieces of her history.

In the United States, the actor’s first and presumably final standalone MCU film was released in theatres and on Disney+’s PVOD program, Premier Access, at the same time.

As per the lawsuit, Johansson’s contract was broken when Disney opted for a hybrid theatrical and streaming distribution strategy for the film, which she signed when she agreed to feature in a solo Black Widow film.

Further, it claims that Johansson expressly contradicted clauses in her contract guaranteeing an exclusive theatrical window, and seeks $50 million in damages. 

However, the lawsuit goes further when it comes to describing objectives, claiming that Disney pressed Marvel with the aim of benefiting more from investors, who were delighted to see the picture succeed on Disney+, where Johannson’s profit-sharing would be significantly limited.

According to the lawsuit, Disney chose a hybrid release for Black Widow as a simple method to boost Disney+ subscribers and compete with Netflix in its own field.

Disney’s reply has been unexpectedly hostile. It tossed out the complaint, claiming that there was no merit to it.

It is unclear how much money Johansson may have lost, but according to Disney’s announcement, Johansson’s box office earnings totalled $20 million.

Despite its harsh tone, Disney’s statement suggests that Johansson stood to receive additional pay on top of her wage.

The case isn’t just about Scarlett and Disney. It has ramifications for the whole entertainment industry, as well as the overall theatrical vs. streaming argument. 

Many well-known directors have expressed concerns that the theatre paradigm was never strong enough, to begin with, and that it is now on the brink of death as a result of the pandemic.

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