Scarlett Johansson and the Walt Disney Co. on Thursday resolved her lawsuit on the streaming release of ‘Black Widow’, giving rise to a swift end to what had started as the first major fight between a studio and celebrity over recent modifications in rollout plans for movies.
Johansson classified the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court two months ago, announcing the streaming release of the Marvel movie breached her agreement and compelled her of potential earnings.
Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but the two sides published a joint statement in which they promised to continue working together.
“I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney,” said Johansson, who has portrayed Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow, in nine films going back to 2010’s “Iron Man 2.” “I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done together over the years and have greatly enjoyed my creative relationship with the team. I look forward to continuing our collaboration.”
Alan Bergman, chairman of Disney Studios Content, told he is “pleased that we have been able to come to a mutual agreement.”
“We appreciate her contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and look forward to working together on a number of upcoming projects,” Bergman said.
The lawsuit said Johansson’s agreement ensured an exclusive theatrical release, with her probable earnings tied to the box office performance of the movie.
But as it has with other new releases since the coronavirus pandemic began, Disney published the movie simultaneously in theatres and through its streaming service for a $30 rental.
The bombast of the lawsuit and Disney’s response implied a long and ugly war was ahead.
“In the months leading up to this lawsuit, Ms. Johansson gave Disney and Marvel every opportunity to right their wrong and make good on Marvel’s promise,” the lawsuit explained. “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 production company at the time told the lawsuit had “no merit whatsoever,” adding that it was “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The company also asserted that the changed release plan “significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.”
Halted more than a year due to COVID-19, ‘Black Widow’ debuted to what was then a pandemic-best of $80 million in North America and $78 million from global theatres on July 9. But theatrical grosses decreased sharply after that. In its second weekend in release, the National Association of Theater Owners published a rare declaration condemning the strategy.
Revised hybrid release methods have occasionally directed to public spats between celebrities, filmmakers and financiers who are unhappy with potential lost revenues and their scarcity of say in such strategies. But none were as big or as public as Johansson’s lawsuit.