Black Widow has done…well, alright at the box office. But it’s far from what the film probably would’ve made in non-pandemic times. Oh yeah, there’s another factor impacting its $318M box office: it was released simultaneously on Disney+. And it’s that part of the release strategy that has upset star Scarlett Johansson, who has filed a lawsuit against Disney.
The lawsuit, which was filed in L.A today, says that Johansson’s contract guarantees a “wide theatrical release” for Black Widow. That obviously did not happen, despite it being “well understood” to mean exclusively in theaters, not on streaming. Since Johansson’s salary is partly tied to box office returns, the actress could have lost $50M in pay according to WSJ estimates.
There’s more, as Johansson alleges some pretty harsh motivations for Disney’s decision. One, is that they wanted to increase Disney+ subscribers by putting a blockbuster Marvel Studios film on the platform. That’s pretty uncontroversial, I’d say. The other, is that they sought to “substantially devalue Ms. Johansson’s agreement and thereby enrich itself.”
Oof. It also says Disney “ignored” outreach attempts to renegotiate terms once the streaming decision was made.
I don’t know how this is going to play out. Probably, Disney and Johansson’s people will cut some kind of deal and everyone will be happy. But it just goes to show, as WB’s decision to put movies in theaters and HBO Max did, that this transition to more of a hybrid strategy has consequences that need to be addressed. It can’t just be business as usual, not even for Marvel.