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Scarlett Johansson & Disney End Lawsuit Over ‘Black Widow’ Streaming Release

Michael King

Multiple sources have confirmed that the lawsuit brought by Scarlett Johansson against Disney over the streaming release of Black Widow has been settled. The lawsuit argued that she stood to lose millions because her salary from the film was based on the box office performance of the film.

The movie’s release, which came in early July and was simultaneously released in theaters and as a streaming Disney Premier Access title on Disney+.

“To maximize these receipts, and thereby protect her financial interests, Ms. Johansson extracted a promise from Marvel that the release of the Picture would be a ‘theatrical release,’” text from the lawsuit read. “As Ms. Johansson, Disney, Marvel, and most everyone else in Hollywood knows, a ‘theatrical release’ is a release that is exclusive to movie theatres. Disney was well aware of this promise, but nonetheless directed Marvel to violate its pledge and instead release the Picture on the Disney+ streaming service the very same day it was released in movie theatres.”

The lawsuit alleged that Disney purposely released Black Widow on Disney+ to not just collect increased revenue by cutting out theaters, but also explicitly did this to “substantially devalue Ms. Johansson’s agreement and thereby enrich itself.”

According to Deadline, a source indicates the terms of the settlement are in the “tens of millions.” The Hollywood Reporter said that Johansson said she was “happy to have resolved our differences with Disney,” and was looking “forward to continuing our collaboration in years to come.”

Since the filing of the lawsuit, Disney had said that Johansson had been paid about $20 million for her role in the film, and could earn more from its Premier Access release on Disney+ — where viewers were paying $30 to watch during its initial release. The film will become widely available for all Disney+ subscribers on Wednesday, October 6.

According to Box Office Mojo, Black Widow landed nearly $379 million during its theatrical run. According to The Verge, Johansson’s team reportedly based their numbers of what they estimated she would have earned from the film on an estimate that the movie would have earned $1.2 billion if not for the multiple COVID delayed and eventual day-and-date release on Disney+. That figure is similar to the box office returns from other recent Marvel movies like Spider-Man: Far From Home and Captain Marvel during their pre-pandemic theatrical runs.

Black Widow was delayed by a year from its original July 2020 release date due to the pandemic.

Since the filing of the Black Widow lawsuit, Disney and other studios have, for the most part, moved away from day-and-date releases, opting instead for shortened 45-day theatrical release windows. This allows for a traditional theatrical release, while bringing titles to streaming platforms more rapidly and taking advantage of those audiences.

This practice can be seen with Disney’s release of Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The motion picture opened exclusively in theaters in early September, and, according to Disney CEO Bob Chapek, it will be made available for viewing by Disney+ subscribers on November 12 as part of the upcoming Disney+ Day celebration.


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