Scarlett Johansson and Walt Disney Company have settled their lawsuit over the release of “Black Widow”
Scarlett Johansson and the Walt Disney Company settled her lawsuit over the streaming release of “Black Widow,” on Thursday, putting an end to what had begun as the first major battle between a studio and a star over recent changes in film rollout plans.
Johansson filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court two months ago, claiming that the Marvel film’s streaming release violated her contract and deprived her of potential earnings.
The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but the two parties issued a joint statement in which they pledged to continue collaborating.
“I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney,” said Johansson,”I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done together over the years and have greatly enjoyed my creative relationship with the team. I look forward to continuing our collaboration.”
Alan Bergman, chairman of Disney Studios Content, stated that he is “pleased that we have been able to come to a mutual agreement.”
“We appreciate her contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and look forward to working together on a number of upcoming projects,” Bergman stated.
According to the lawsuit, Johansson’s contract guaranteed her an exclusive theatrical release, with her potential earnings tied to the film’s box office performance.
However, as with other recent releases since the coronavirus pandemic began, Disney released the film in theaters and on its streaming service Disney+ for $30.
The lawsuit’s rhetoric and Disney’s response suggested that a long and ugly battle lay ahead.
“In the months leading up to this lawsuit, Ms. Johansson gave Disney and Marvel every opportunity to right their wrong and make good on Marvel’s promise,” according to the 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.”
At the time, Disney stated that the lawsuit had “no merit whatsoever,” and that it was “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
According to Disney, the revised release schedule “significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.”
On July 9, after being delayed for more than a year due to COVID-19, “Black Widow” debuted to what was then a pandemic-best of $80 million in North America and $78 million from international theaters. However, box office receipts dropped precipitously after that. The National Association of Theater Owners issued a rare statement criticizing the strategy during its second weekend of release.
Revised hybrid release strategies have occasionally resulted in public squabbles between stars, filmmakers, and financiers who are dissatisfied with potential revenue losses and their lack of say in such strategies. None, however, were as large or as public as Johansson’s lawsuit.