Scarlett Johansson, star of the Marvel superhero movie Black Widow, sued the Walt Disney Co on Thursday, alleging that the company breached her contract when it offered the movie on streaming at the same time it played in theatres. Johansson said that her agreement with Disney-owned Marvel Entertainment involved a guarantee that the film will exclusively be released in theatres and her salary was based on the box-office performance of the movie. Disney, however, said there was “no merit” to the lawsuit. The Disney statement said the lawsuit was “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” It added in a statement that the release of the movie on its streaming platform had “significantly enhanced her (Johansson’s) ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20 million she has received to date.
Black Widow debuted on July 9 in theatres and for a $30 charge on the Disney+ streaming service. Johansson’s lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that Disney wanted to steer audiences toward Disney+, “where it could keep the revenues for itself while simultaneously growing the Disney+ subscriber base, a proven way to boost Disney’s stock price,” Reuters stated in a report. Black Widow, the story of the Russian assassin turned Avenger, pulled in $80 million at US and Canadian box offices over its debut weekend, according to reports. The movie also generated $60 million through Disney+ purchases, Disney said. Johansson has played the character in nine Marvel films.