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Disney Defends Distribution of Black Widow, Once Again Dismisses Scarlett Johansson’s Claims

© AP Photo / VALERIE MACONActress Scarlett Johansson attends the special screening of "Jojo Rabbit" during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival Day 4 at the Princess of Wales Theatre on September 8, 2019, in Toronto, Ontario
Actress Scarlett Johansson attends the special screening of Jojo Rabbit during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival Day 4 at the Princess of Wales Theatre on September 8, 2019, in Toronto, Ontario - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.08.2021
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At the end of July, the Hollywood actress filed a lawsuit against the media conglomerate, accusing it of violating the contract after Disney released Black Widow, where Johansson plays a popular character from the Marvel Comics.
Disney has defended the strategy of Black Widow, which simultaneously premiered in cinemas and on its streaming service. Dan Petrocelli, a lawyer representing the company, said there "are no limitations or constraints on the company’s judgment on how to distribute Black Widow".
Petrocelli then reiterated Disney’s previous statement in which the company dismissed claims made by Johansson. The actress claimed that she was promised an exclusive theatrical release.
"The lawsuit is manifestly wrong in every respect", the lawyer said, adding that the actress’ contract contained no guarantees that the movie wouldn’t be released on all platforms.

What Has Johansson Said?

On 30 July it became known that the two-time Oscar nominee had sued Disney after the company released Black Widow on its streaming service Disney+ at the same time as its theatrical release. Johansson claimed that Marvel Studios, owned by Disney, had promised her that the movie would be released exclusively in cinemas, with her bonuses based on Black Widow’s box-office performance.
The movie set a record during the coronavirus pandemic, grossing $218 million worldwide over its first weekend. However, then the numbers dropped, as the film was released on Disney’s streaming service Disney+. According to an individual familiar with the matter who spoke with The Wall Street Journal on condition of anonymity, Disney’s decision to release the movie online cost Johansson $50 million.
The company has released a strongly worded statement rejecting the accusations and saying that Johansson’s lawsuit had "no merit whatsoever".
"[The legal action is] especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic", the statement read.
Disney also stated that the actress had already received $20 million for her work and noted that the dual release had "enhanced [Johansson's] ability to earn additional compensation".
Johansson’s agent fired back, accusing the company of attempting to "smear" the actress.
"Scarlett has been Disney's partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions. The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponise her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of", said Bryan Lourd, co-chairman of the Creative Artists Agency.

What’s Next?

Disney’s lawyer Dan Petrocelli said the company would attempt to move the fight from the courts to arbitration. He said prior to the lawsuit that both sides had held discussions regarding the actress’ concerns, but failed to reach a compromise. "The demands they made were unreasonable", Petrocelli said.
Johansson’s legal team insists the arbitration clause cannot be used in this case.
"If Disney genuinely believed what its lawyers now claim, it would welcome having the dispute decided in open court, instead of angling to hide its misconduct from the public in a confidential arbitration", said the actress’ lawyer John Berlinski.
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