Marvel and Disney have filed for a confidential arbitration and a stay on Scarlett Johansson‘s lawsuit in response to the actor suing the media giant for releasing Black Widow simultaneously on Disney+.
Johansson filed a lawsuit against Disney, Marvel’s mother company, in July over breach of contract. In it, the actor said her agreement with Disney-owned Marvel Entertainment came with the guarantee that the film would have an exclusive theatrical release, with the box-office performance determining her salary. She alleged that the simultaneous release was an intentional breach of the agreement in order to prevent her from realizing “the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel.”
However, in its filing which was acquired by The Hollywood Reporter, Marvel and Disney argued that the agreement in question, did not require that the mentioned “wide theatrical release” also be an exclusive theatrical release.
“Because the Picture was released theatrically on more than 30,000 screens, it necessarily follows that Marvel did not breach the wide-theatrical-release provision,” the document said, and compared Black Widow‘s distribution as well as box-office performance with that of other successful Marvel films.
The film opened on July 9 in 9,600 screens across US, a domestic screen count that exceeds that of other recent Marvel pictures including Ant-Man (2015), Captain Marvel (2019), and Black Panther (2018). While the agreement guaranteed a theatrical release in “no less than 1,500 screens,” the film centred on Johansson’s character of Natasha Romanoff saw a release on 30,000 screens worldwide.
In addition to this, Black Widow garnered a box-office collection of $135 million, $55 million in Premier Access receipts plus $80 million domestic-box-office total, during its opening weekend, more than that of many other Marvel Cinematic Universe films, including Thor: The Dark World, Ant-Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Guardians of the Galaxy. It has collected over $125 million in streaming and download retail receipts, and has grossed more than $367 million in worldwide, as per the recent filing in the litigation.
Calling Johansson’s suit a stunt to “generate publicity through public filing,” Disney’s petition noted that the actor excluded Marvel from the lawsuit, and instead, named the Walt Disney company.
Disney also said the decision to go with a hybrid release for the film was made taking into account the looming pandemic situation across the globe and the multiple times that the film’s release had been delayed. It further claimed that Marvel had discussed the hybrid-release decision with Johansson in Spring 2021 and both parties had unanimously agreed to the release date as well as the model.
As per THR, John Berlinski, attorney for Johansson, said, “After initially responding to this litigation with a misogynistic attack against Scarlett Johansson, Disney is now, predictably, trying to hide its misconduct in a confidential arbitration. Why is Disney so afraid of litigating this case in public? Because it knows that Marvel’s promises to give Black Widow a typical theatrical release ‘like its other films’ had everything to do with guaranteeing that Disney wouldn’t cannibalize box office receipts in order to boost Disney+ subscriptions. Yet that is exactly what happened – and we look forward to presenting the overwhelming evidence that proves it.”