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‘Black Widow’ hero Scarlett Johansson sues Disney over Marvel movie’s streaming release

The Marvel movie super hero alleges that Disney breached its contract with her by releasing the film to its streaming service during the movie’s theatrical debut

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Scarlett Johansson is pictured playing Natasha Romanoff in the Marvel Studios movie “Black Widow.”

Scarlett Johansson is pictured playing Natasha Romanoff in the Marvel Studios movie “Black Widow.”

Jay Maidment, Marvel Studios

Big screen superhero Scarlett Johansson’s new archenemy is Mickey Mouse.

The actress has filed a lawsuit against the Walt Disney Co., alleging the massive studio breached her contract when Disney released the new Marvel “Black Widow” movie for streaming on Disney+ at the same time the action film debuted in theaters, The Wall Street Journal reported.

  • Johansson, who stars as Avenger and ex-Russian spy Natasha Romanoff in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday.
  • “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,” the lawsuit says, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Attorney John Berlinski of Kasowitz Benson Torres, the law firm representing Johansson, told CNBC in an email that “it’s no secret that Disney is releasing films like ‘Black Widow’ directly onto Disney+ 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.”

  • “But ignoring the contracts of the artists responsible for the success of its films in furtherance of this short-sighted strategy violates their rights and we look forward to proving as much in court,” the lawyer further explained, according to CNBC. “This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts.”
  • The Walt Disney Co. had not responded to requests for comment from The Wall Street Journal or CNBC.

After a year and a half at home, people are going back to theaters

Deseret News reporter and film critic Herb Scribner reported last month that new theatrical releases are making million of dollars during their opening weeks as people shed their pandemic safety bubbles.

  • After its release was delayed by the pandemic last year, “A Quiet Place II” earned $57 million during a 2021 Memorial Day debut weekend, just about what it was projected to earn in a pre-coronavirus box office, Scribner reported.
  • That same weekend, movies “Cruella” — which could be streamed on Disney+ for $30 — and “Wrath of Man” each earned upwards of $20 million, the Deseret News reported.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Johansson’s lawsuit “could be a bellwether for the entertainment industry” as large media companies continue to focus their business model on streaming services.

  • “Those changes have significant financial implications for actors and producers, who want to ensure that growth in streaming doesn’t come at their expense,” the Journal reported.