Scarlett Johansson earned US$20 million for Black Widow, but she’s suing Disney for more – what the Marvel lawsuit means for Hollywood’s streaming wars

It was an unprecedented move when Disney debuted its first pandemic-era movie simultaneously on its streaming service and in cinemas.

Directors speculated on how doing so could impact the future of traditional filmmaking, streaming platforms followed suit to cash in on movies during a time when cinemas were largely shuttered, and many viewers were thrilled they could watch new films at home.


Scarlett Johansson plays the eponymous Black Widow. Photo: Marvel Studios/Disney

But since Marvel’s Black Widow debuted on Disney+ and in cinemas simultaneously, on July 9, its star Scarlett Johansson has filed a lawsuit against Disney. Here’s what you need to know about the sticky situation so far.

MARVEL
Interview: Scarlett Johansson on Black Widow, Marvel’s movie of the summer

What happened?


Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow. Photo: Marvel Studios/TNS

On Thursday, Johansson’s lawsuit was made public and argued that Disney, which owns Marvel, violated her contract when it released Black Widow on its streaming platforms and in cinemas.


Johansson’s salary is largely based on box office performance – her character’s stand-alone film raked in US$158 million from cinema across the globe. However, Disney enjoyed a further US$60 million in home sales of the movie, which cost US$30 per customer.


Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney over its decision to release superhero movie Black Widow on streaming at the same time as in cinemas, alleging a breach of contract which cost the star millions of dollars. Photo: AFP

Sources told The Wall Street Journal that she was shorted an estimated US$50 million because of the discrepancy.

Marvel’s chief counsel David Galluzzi assured Johansson and her team in early 2019 that the film would have an exclusive theatrical release and not be aired online, according to an email included in the lawsuit.

Galluzzi confirmed that was the case and said he would consult the actress if those plans changed since the deal “is based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses”.

CINEMA
The top 5 films to watch in July, from Black Widow to the new Space Jam

Who are the main players?


Scarlett Johansson stars as Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, in the Marvel superhero film Black Widow. Photo: Disney/Marvel/TNS

Johansson, Disney and Disney’s Marvel.

What did Disney say about it?


Disney own the Marvel brand at the heart of the legal issue. Photo: AP Photo

A company spokesperson said on Thursday “there is no merit whatsoever” to Johansson’s lawsuit and said the filing was “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Johansson’s lawyer, John Berlinski, pushed back on that claim in an email and said Disney is “hiding behind Covid-19 as a pretext” to “increase subscribers and thereby boost the company’s stock price”.



Scarlett Johansson made her Marvel debut with Iron Man 2 back in 2010. Photo: @scarlettjohanssonworld/Instagram

Disney also said it has “fully complied” with Johansson’s contract and said she’s able to earn even more compensation with Black Widow airing on Disney+. It also publicly disclosed the actress’ salary – US$20 million.

Marvel, on the other hand, reportedly wasn’t happy with Disney’s decision to release Black Widow both online and in cinemas, in part because it could lead to piracy.

MARVEL
Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh’s Black Widow bond – on-screen and off

What’s at stake?


Traditional Hollywood industry forces are reckoning with the onslaught of streaming. Photo: AP

Johansson’s lawsuit could change how Hollywood pays and contracts talent in an age where streaming is rising in popularity.

As Berlinksi said in an email, the lawsuit won’t be the “last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honour its contracts”.

Some are calling for actors to receive payments upfront if movies are going to be released on streaming sites, which could prevent situations like Johansson’s from occurring.


Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh in Black Widow. Photo: Marvel Studios

The so-called streaming wars have heated up during the pandemic as Warner Bros’ HBO Max, Disney+, and others have released high-budget, high-quality films on their services, which subsequently boosted subscribers and their bottom line. Meanwhile cinemas, already battered by the pandemic, are suffering and are far from recovery.

Want more stories like this? Sign up here. Follow STYLE on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider


Related Posts

Tim McGraw honors Caitlin Clark again, this time in Indy

Caitlin Clark’s Indiana Fever WNBA jersey is a tough purchase these days. Unless you’re a country music star. Tim McGraw has made no secrets about his love of…

Breaking: Patriotism Over Payday: Jason Aldean Rejects Million Dollar Super Bowl Offer.“I’d Do It For Free”

Breaking: Patriotism Over Payday: Jason Aldean Rejects Million Dollar Super Bowl Offer.“I’d Do It For Free” Jason Aldean, one of country music’s leading lights, recently turned heads…

Breaking: Late Night Shakeup: ABC Cancels Kimmel and Colbert Shows

Breaking: Late Night Shakeup: ABC Cancels Kimmel and Colbert Shows New York, NY – April 19, 2024 – In a move that sent shockwaves through the late-night television…

Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, and Carrie Underwood Bail on Memphis Country Festival That Signed Beyoncè

In the heart of the American South, where the states of Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi converge, lies the annual Memphis Tri-State Jamboree. This iconic event, steeped in…

Breaking: Roseanne’s Back and Bigger Than Ever! New Show Garners Over 1 Billion Views in First Episode

Breaking: Roseanne’s Back and Bigger Than Ever! New Show Garners Over 1 Billion Views in First Episode In a remarkable triumph for television history, Roseanne Barr’s highly…

Breaking: Tech Mogul vs. Music Royalty: Musk Spars With Beyoncé Over Country Music

Breaking: Tech Mogul vs. Music Royalty: Musk Spars With Beyoncé Over Country Music In a surprising turn of events, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk and music icon Beyoncé…