Earlier we reported on Scarlet Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney for alleged breach of contract over Disney releasing the ‘Black Widow’ film to Disney+ at the same time as they released it theatrically. The suit claimed “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.”
Now the Walt Disney Company is firing back against the star saying that “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Disney of course had no problem stalling out the copyright reversion of the Predator series to the creators. They also had no problem reinstating executive salaries and bonus, including a new contract that gave CFO Christine McCarthy up to an $11 Million annual bonus, while other Cast Members were cut off until the parks got back on track.
This is the same Disney that has no problem increasing park capacity during the same “pandemic” while cancelling appearances by executives and staff at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, citing the COVID-19 Delta variant as the reason.
It’s also interesting to note that this comes after the alleged conflict between former CEO Bob Iger and current CEO Bob Chapek over ‘Black Widow’ and Chinese box offices.
Disney has stated that they have “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 $20 Million she has received to date.”
As other news sources have mentioned, it hasn’t been made clear what the $20 million was for and if it was tied to the box office for the current ‘Black Widow’ film.
“It is unclear how much Johansson was paid to star as Natasha Romanoff in the film or if the purported $20 million payout from Disney includes any of the film’s current box-office haul.”
Disney was quick to boast about the performance of ‘Black Widow’ at the box office and on Disney+ via Premier Access when it debuted, but it was far from profitable. Even then they used the pandemic as an excuse for the lower than normal numbers for a Marvel film.
The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) also called out Disney as they blamed the split release for the lower than expected ticket sales.
Johansson’s attorney John Berlinski told Variety:
“It’s no secret that Disney is releasing films like ‘Black Widow’ directly onto Disney Plus to increase subscribers and thereby boost the company’s stock price — and that it’s hiding behind COVID-19 as a pretext to do so.”
Disney themselves have made it very clear that their streaming platforms are where their priorities lie, even going as far as to restructure the company to focus on direct-to-consumer (DtC) moving forward.
We don’t know the validity of either argument in this situation. We aren’t lawyers and we aren’t privy to the case details. Some may argue that Scarlet Johansson already received enough while others may argue she didn’t. That would be up to the contract and agreements they reached.
But the argument that it is a “callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic” is harder and harder to accept when it’s coming from Disney.
The same company that asks for patience from shareholders and customers due to the “pandemic.” The same company that can increase park capacity when COVID-19 infections are increasing near the theme parks, but they can’t send their executives to a convention for the same reason.
The pandemic seems to be a very convenient excuse when they want to use it both as a reason for their choices and when they want to weaponize it when they want to get out of a contract dispute or pay Cast Members.
I will watch this showdown with great interest moving forward.
Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.