There has been quite a bit of back-and-forth between Disney and Scarlett Johansson, who plays Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The star recently filed a lawsuit against Disney over her most recent outing as the super spy in this month’s “Black Widow.” And after more than a week of responses in the media and in legal filings, Disney is now seeking arbitration according to the Wall Street Journal.
Johansson’s lawsuit alleges that by releasing the film on Disney+ simultaneously with the theatrical release, “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.” Johansson reportedly took a partial back-end deal, in which her salary for the film was derived from the box office sales which, the lawsuit alleges, were undercut by the Disney+ sales.
After multiple delays in release due to the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering theaters nationwide, it was announced in March that “Black Widow” would be one of several films pushed through to the Disney+ streaming service as a Premiere Access title. Despite an $80 million opening in the US and Canada and $60 million garnered from Disney+ sales, the film still sits at $359 million worldwide. With $174 million total domestic take as of press time, this makes “Black Widow” the 2nd lowest-earning marvel film ever, behind “The Incredible Hulk.”
In the Wall Street Journal, Disney released figures touting that Johansson had already earned $20 million from her deal. Previously, Disney attorney Daniel Petrocelli had called the lawsuit a lost cause because the contract is iron clad. “We treated Disney Premier Access (revenue) like box office for the purposes of the bonus requirements in the contract,” Petrocelli told Variety. “No amount of public pressure can change or obscure the explicit contractual commitments. The written contract is clear as a bell.”
Disney’s arbitration would make the case confidential and the details would not become publicly available even after the case ends, which Johansson’s lawyer John Berlinski decried as Disney’s attempt to “hide its misconduct from the public in a confidential arbitration,” according to the Wall Street Journal article.