Scarlett Johansson sues Disney over streaming of Black Widow
Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney for breach of contract after it streamed her superhero film Black Widow at the same time as its cinema release.
The film set a box office record for the Covid-19 pandemic, grossing $218m (£157m) in its first weekend.
But box office receipts then fell sharply and Ms Johansson argues she was deprived of potential earnings.
In response, Disney said it had “fully complied” with her contract and that her case had “no merit whatsoever”.
Ms Johansson said she was promised by Marvel Studios, which is owned by Disney, that Black Widow would be a “theatrical release”.
She said she had understood this to mean a “window” of time would pass before it would be streamed – a period that has traditionally lasted 90 days.
During the pandemic a number of Hollywood studios opted to bypass cinemas, many of which had been closed, and release their films online instead.
Now that most cinemas have reopened, Disney, along with fellow giant Warner Bros, has chosen to maintain a dual release strategy for their major films.
On its first weekend, Black Widow took some $80m in ticket sales in North America and $78m internationally, plus at least $60m in Disney+ Premier Access rentals.
Sources close to the actor, whose salary was based on the box office performance of the film, project that she lost $50m, according to media reports.
Disney countered by claiming that the dual release strategy had “significantly enhanced [Johansson’s] ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20m she has received to date”.
In a strongly worded statement, it said her legal action was “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic”.