Scarlett Johansson and the Walt Disney Company have reached an agreement in her lawsuit over the streaming release of the movie “Black Widow”. The agreement puts an end to the first significant tussle between a studio and a celebrity over recent changes in film release plans.
Johansson filed the complaint two months ago in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging that the Marvel movie’s streaming distribution violated her contract and robbed her of possible earnings.
The terms of the agreement were not revealed, but the two parties issued a joint statement on Thursday vowing to continue cooperating.
Johansson, who has portrayed Natasha Romanoff, nicknamed Black Widow, in nine films dating back to 2010’s Iron Man 2, stated, “I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney. I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done together over the years and have greatly enjoyed my creative relationship with the team. I look forward to continuing our collaboration.”
Chairman of Disney Studios Content Alan Bergman said that he is “pleased that we have been able to come to a mutual agreement”.
“We appreciate her contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and look forward to working together on a number of upcoming projects,” Bergman said.
Digital news agency Deadline quoted the unidentified sources, which said that the settlement is worth “more than US$40 million”.
According to the lawsuit, Johansson’s contract stipulated an exclusive theatrical release, with her potential profits contingent on the film’s box office performance.
However, like with other recent releases since the coronavirus pandemic started, Disney distributed the picture in theatres and on its streaming service Disney+ for a US$30 rental, as it has done with other recent films.
The lawsuit’s language and Disney’s reaction hinted at a lengthy and bruising fight ahead.
Johansson offered Disney and Marvel every chance to rectify their mistake and make good on Marvel’s promise in the months preceding up to this lawsuit, according to the complaint. “Disney intentionally induced Marvel’s breach of the Agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel.”
The case had “no merit whatsoever,” Disney stated at the time, adding that it was “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic”.
Disney said the changed release plan “significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the US$20 million she has received to date.”
Black Widow, which had been delayed for more than a year due to Covid-19, opened to a pandemic-best of US$80 million in North America and US$78 million in foreign theatres on July 9. However, following that, box office receipts plummeted. The National Association of Theatre Owners made an unusual statement criticising the approach during its second weekend in theatres.
Revised hybrid release tactics have sometimes resulted in public squabbles between celebrities, directors, and financiers who are dissatisfied with possible income losses and their lack of input into such strategies.
None, however, were as large or as well-publicized as Johansson’s case.
In 2018 and 2019, Johansson topped Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s highest-paid actresses, with pre-tax earnings totaling US$56 million from June 2018 to June 2019.