The Marvel Cinematic Universe and Disney are about to experience a big battle but this time it’s off-camera and heading to a courtroom.
Some studios have transitioned back to standard theatrical releases, but a few are continuing to experiment with new methods first used in 2020 with Disney releasing Black Widow simultaneously in theatres and on Disney+. Johansson’s issue is simple and easy to understand—her potential earnings were tied to the box office performance of Black Widow, which is absolutely going to be affected by a home release.
Disney’s response is what you’d expect from a large company in 2021. In a statement, the company said, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Disney went on to say they had “fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract” and that releasing Black Widow “on Disney+ with Premier Access significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20 [million] she has received to date.”
There is likely a lot to this story, and it will be interesting to see it play out, especially as similar issues happen with other actresses working with Disney. Emma Stone is reportedly considering a lawsuit against Disney as well. There isn’t a lot of information on this yet, and it has not been officially announced or confirmed. It was posted in a newsletter called ‘What I’m Hearing …’ from Matt Belloni, who was previously an editor for The Hollywood Reporter.
A lawsuit or two is easier to deal with quietly, especially with the money and resources that come with owning Star Wars, Fox, Hulu, and ESPN. If the lawsuits and alleged issues continue though, it may pull the house of mouse into the news cycle for all the wrong reasons, which isn’t as easily fixed—even if a company does have it all.