As Scarlett Johansson takes her final bow as Black Widow, it seems her relationship with Disney and Marvel is ending in a courtroom.
Johansson filed a lawsuit against Disney in Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday, alleging the company breached her contract by releasing the Marvel film Black Widow on Disney+ at the same time that it hit theaters, The Wall Street Journal reports. Her lawsuit reportedly says she had an agreement with Marvel that the superhero film would be released exclusively in movie theaters and that her salary was largely based on its box office performance.
"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," the lawsuit says.
Black Widow was originally scheduled to be released only in movie theaters in May 2020. But after delaying the film multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney decided to premiere it both in theaters and on Disney+ simultaneously. The film's opening weekend box office receipts came in at the lower end of expectations, which analysts said was likely in part due to its availability on streaming. Johansson's lawsuit reportedly alleges she attempted to renegotiate her contract when the decision was made to release Black Widow on Disney+ but that Disney wasn't responsive. A person familiar with her contract claimed to the Journal the film's streaming release will ultimately cost her over $50 million.
Disney is far from the only company that has debuting theatrical movies on streaming during the pandemic, with WarnerMedia also doing so with all of its 2021 films. The Journal writes that this could potentially be a "bellwether" lawsuit, and Johansson attorney John Berlinski said, "This will surely not 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 honor its contracts."