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Disney's Take on Johansson's Lawsuit: 'Sad'

Company says star's lawsuit over streaming of 'Black Widow' has 'no merit'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 30, 2021 6:26 AM CDT
Disney Slams Johansson's 'Callous Disregard' for Pandemic
Scarlett Johansson arrives at the Bafta Film Awards, in central London, on Feb. 2, 2020.   (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP, File)

(Newser) – Disney says there's "no merit whatsoever" to Scarlett Johansson's lawsuit alleging Marvel Studios breached her contract in simultaneously releasing Black Widow in theaters and on Disney+. The suit claims the star was guaranteed an exclusive theater release and was hurt financially by the about-face as her compensation is largely based on box office receipts. Some reports suggest she lost out on $50 million, per the BBC. Released July 9, Black Widow pulled in $218.8 million on opening weekend—a record for the pandemic—with $80 million at the US box office, $78.8 million at the worldwide box office, and $60 million from Disney+ Premier Access fees. But it's still among the lowest-grossing Marvel Cinematic Universe films with $319.5 million in global earnings, which cinema owners attribute "to the simultaneous streaming release," per the Independent.

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The Hollywood Reporter also suggests the dual release strategy affected box office returns, as some analysts predicted $100 million in the domestic debut. But Disney says it has "fully complied with Ms. Johansson's contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date," per People. Disney adds the lawsuit is "especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic." But Johansson's attorney John Berlinski says "Disney is releasing films like Black Widow directly onto Disney+ to increase subscribers and thereby boost the company's stock price" and is "hiding behind COVID-19 as a pretext to do so." (Read more Disney stories.)

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