In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the 'Black Widow' star and executive producer said her contract guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news of the lawsuit.Johansson's potential earnings were tied to the box office performance of the film, which the company released simultaneously in theatres and on its streaming service for a $30 rental.
"In the months leading up to this lawsuit, Scarlett Johansson gave Disney and Marvel every opportunity to right their wrong and make good on Marvel's promise," the lawsuit said. "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 production company in reply has said the lawsuit has "no merit whatsoever."
"The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic," the company said in a statement. They also claimed that they have fully complied with Johansson's contract and furthermore, claimed that the release of the film on OTT "significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date."
After its release was delayed more than a year because of COVID-19, 'Black Widow' debuted to a pandemic-best of $80 million in North America and $78 million from international theatres three weeks ago, but theatrical grosses declined sharply after that. In its second weekend in release, the National Association of Theater Owners issued a rare statement criticizing the strategy asserting that simultaneous release lends itself only to lost profits and higher quality piracy.Once taboo, hybrid theatrical and streaming releases have become more normal for many of the biggest studios during the pandemic, with each adopting its own unique strategy.
The revised hybrid release strategies over the 16 months have occasionally led to public spats from not just theatre owners, but stars, filmmakers and financiers who are unhappy with the potential lost revenues and the alleged unilateral decision-making involved.The WSJ said Warner Media, for instance, paid over $200 million in "amended agreements" with talent over its decision to release its entire 2021 slate simultaneously in theatres and on their OTT platform.
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