Earlier this month, Disney released its first Marvel movie in over a year — Black Widow.
The movie release took a similar approach to previous Disney films this year, debuting both in-theaters and with Disney+ Premier Access on the same date and it was widely successful on both platforms. But, now The Walt Disney Company is facing legal action due to the dual-platform release.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Black Widow star, Scarlett Johansson, has filed a lawsuit against Disney for a breach of contract due to the film’s release on Disney+ on the same date that it was released in theaters.
Johansson’s legal team argues that Disney had guaranteed there would be an exclusive theatrical release for the film and built box office performance into her salary. And, according to someone familiar with the contract, the release of the movie on Disney+ may cost Johansson over $50 million.
Disney has responded to the lawsuit with a public statement saying that “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing” and that they have “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 hear additional compensation.”
Earlier this year, Disney shared that they have chosen to approach movie releases with “flexibility,” assessing audiences’ comfortability with returning to the theaters and approaching things on a “case by case basis.” And, it was back in March that they decided on a dual release for Black Widow.
The new Marvel film did still have a great start in the box office and grossed $80 million at the domestic box office, $78 million overseas in theaters, and an additional $60 million through Disney+ on its opening weekend. However, the following days and weeks saw a more dramatic loss in performance compared to previous Marvel films released exclusively in theaters.
Now, Disney isn’t the only company that is pushing new movie releases to both the theaters and streaming services on the same date — both HBO Max and NBCUniversal have both done so. However, often a renegotiation of the contract with stars is needed in order to do so (which Johansson says was not done in the case of Black Widow).
We will continue to keep an eye out for updates on the case and, in the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to AllEars for more Disney news and updates!
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