Millions of Marvel fans weren’t the only ones who thought Black Widow was being stuffed into the cheap seats with a simultaneous release in theaters and on Disney+ this month. Superstar Scarlett Johansson filed suit against the Mouse House in Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday, claiming her contract guaranteed that the movie would get an exclusive theater release like every major Avengers flick before it, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
As some consider Black Widow the first-ever female-led Avengers movie (Captain Marvel wasn’t quite part of the team), it was more than hotly anticipated, but was bumped from May 2020 to May 2021 after the pandemic hit, then bumped even further, and finally co-released for home viewing at an additional $30 a pop for Disney+ subscribers at the same time it should have been conquering the box office.
The way Johansson and her attorneys see it, Disney breached her contract and gave Widow the couch treatment in order to drive new subscribers to its Marvel- and Star Wars-reliant home streaming service.
“Why would Disney forgo hundreds of millions of dollars in box office receipts by releasing the Picture in theatres at a time when it knew the theatrical market was ‘weak,’ rather than waiting a few months for that market to recover?” the suit asks. “On information and belief, the decision to do so was made at least in part because Disney saw the opportunity to promote its flagship subscription service using the Picture and Ms. Johnasson, thereby attracting new paying monthly subscribers, retaining existing ones, and establishing Disney+ as a must-have service in an increasingly competitive marketplace.”
In a statement released Thursday, Disney said, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It continues, “Disney 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 $20 [million] she has received to date.”
Disney, which almost never tells the public what its streaming titles have pulled in, claims that the origin story earned $60 million on Premier Access its opening weekend. So far it’s taken it about $218 million worldwide.
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