Disney Is Trying To Push Scarlett Johansson Case Into Arbitration


Disney is now taking a step to resolve the Scarlett Johansson lawsuit by trying to push it into arbitration. Their lawyers filed on August 20, late and before the weekend, in Los Angeles Superior Court.  Kind of sounds like when they drop bad news after the stock market closing bells on Friday night.

Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit against Disney on July 29th claiming that the divided release of ‘Black Widow’ both theatrically and on Disney+ led to her potentially losing millions of dollars that she was to get from the box office.

In the new motion for arbitration Disney attorneys argue that Disney did give the film a “wide theatrical release” by going to 9,000 theaters (Box Office Mojo indicates about 4,300 domestically), which is over the contractual obligation of 1,500 theaters.

Johansson’s issue seems to be the split release of the film to both theaters and Disney+.

Her contract was created two years prior to the launch of Disney+ so that parameter was not included, hence her argument that the film was to be released exclusively to theaters.

Disney’s lawyers are arguing that “exclusively” wasn’t specified, because why would it be when Disney+ wasn’t something that was around then, and argue that it performed “well” given the pandemic.

Daniel Petrocelli, one of Disney’s legal team, argued that “Black Widow” actually performed well, considering the ongoing pandemic. The film opened on July 9 and grossed $80 million domestically in its opening weekend — well below pre-pandemic Marvel standards, but $10 million more than Universal’s “F9” — which was an exclusive theatrical release.”

Many wonder why Johannson filed against Disney instead of Marvel and the reason, according to Variety is that her attorney “filed suit against Disney, the parent company, alleging that Disney had interfered with the subsidiary’s contract with Johansson in order to boost Disney Plus.

Which is likely given that they are strongly focused on Disney+ and have changed their entire company structure to move to “direct-to-consumer.

Disney may be giving in a bit.

However Disney indicated that they would add the streaming receipts to the box office total to calculate her backend participation, which they aren’t required by the contract to do. Of course they weren’t, the contract predated the service.  Maybe if they had just done that initially there wouldn’t be a lawsuit to begin with.

Disney’s uneven use of the Pandemic

I just love how Disney wants to use the pandemic when it benefits them, like theatrical releases, or explaining low revenue to share holders, but they don’t seem to care too much about the pandemic when it comes to shoving people into the parks and raising prices on customers.  It only counts when they lose money.

The whole thing reminds of the Bill Nye lawsuit. Nye wasn’t getting what he felt he should be getting over Disney releasing episodes of “Bill Nye the Science Guy” on streaming. Like Johansson’s contract, streaming to Disney+ was not included in his contract that predated the service.  Ultimately he lost as Disney’s lawyers argued it was another form of home video that he did agree to.  Yes. That’s how low Disney will go.

Next week we will likely see how this plays out. Disney did not expect to get the black eye that it did, as a lot of public opinion, media outlets, and Hollywood groups sided with Johansson. The mouse had it’s other eye blackened with backlash to their latest cash-grab disguised as a customer perk– Genie+ announcement.  (What is it with Disney and plusing everything?)

Disney has some PR issues to face now. Let’s see where it goes.

What do you think? Comment and let us know.

Source: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter

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