Scarlett Johansson attacks Disney for streaming release of Black Widow
Steph Deschamps / July 30, 2021
Scarlett Johansson, one of Hollywood's highest-paid stars, was entitled to a percentage of the revenue from the highly anticipated Marvel movie, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in a Los Angeles court. The big-screen release of Black Widow was scheduled for last year, but had been pushed back several times because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The film was finally released in July in theaters, but also on the Disney+ streaming platform.
Box office experts believe that the disappointing numbers - by Marvel movie standards - are partly due to its simultaneous release on streaming. In three weeks, the film raked in $150 million in U.S. theaters. It's no secret that Disney releases movies like 'Black Widow' directly on Disney+ to attract more subscribers and thus boost the company's stock price - and invokes Covid-19 as an excuse, Scarlett Johansson's lawyer, John Berlinski, said in a statement to AFP. This is surely not the last time Hollywood talent will stand up to Disney and make it clear that whatever the company may claim, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts, he added.
Disney, which owns superhero specialists Marvel Studios, countered that it had not breached the contract and dismissed the lawsuit out of hand. The complaint is particularly sad and distressing because it ignores the horrific and prolonged global impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the group said in a statement. Like many Hollywood studios, Disney is increasingly focusing on streaming as a source of future revenue. After the first weekend of Black Widow, Disney issued a statement saying the film had taken in more than $60 million on Disney+ alone, where it was available to subscribers for an additional $30.
In the complaint filed, it is stated that to protect her financial interests, Ms. Johansson obtained a promise from Marvel that the release of the film would be 'in theaters' which, according to her, meant that it would not be available for streaming immediately. But Disney wanted to lure the film's audience away from theaters and into its own streaming service, where it could keep the revenue for itself while increasing the number of Disney+ subscribers as the company sought to enrich itself, it further reads.
Rival studio Warner Bros. was criticized last year for making a similar decision to release all of its films simultaneously in theaters and on streaming. Warner had renegotiated many of its contracts with stars and directors, and reportedly paid out more than $200 million to make up for the lost box office revenue.