Everything You Need to Know About the Scarlett Johansson vs. Disney Lawsuit

Sep 8, 2021


Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney for breach of contract after they released Black Widow on Disney+ at the same time the film was being shown in cinemas. Find out more, here…

The Black Widow star’s salary was based on the box office performance of the film, which received a strong opening of $80 million. However, it then declined by 67 percent the following week, the steepest second week decline of any marvel film to date.

Johansson has blamed the release of the film on Disney+ as the reason it didn’t perform as well as it should have at the box office. For contract disputes, commercial litigation solicitors  are the people to go to. After speaking to her own solicitors, the Oscar-nominated actress filed a lawsuit against Disney Co.

Since then, the plot has thickened, and in this post we’re going to share everything we know about the Scarlett Johansson vs. Disney lawsuit thus far.

What Has Happened in the Johansson vs. Disney Lawsuit so Far?

In the interest of giving both sides their day in court, we’re going to briefly discuss the arguments of Johansson and Disney before explaining where the lawsuit currently stands.

What is Johansson’s Suit Based Upon?

According to Johansson’s testimony, Disney promised the actress that the film would be released in cinemas first and there would be a window of time before it became available on Disney+.

When the pandemic hit, it became the norm for streaming services to air their new releases online instead of in the cinema, and Disney followed suit

In response to this change, Johansson’s lawyers claimed that “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.” 

Since then, more information has been released to back up Johansson’s claims. Her case is currently based on:

  • The language of the contract which indicated that Black Widow would get a typical theatrical release in the same vein as other Marvel films. No other Marvel film was released on streaming at the same time as the theatrical release.
  • Johansson’s initial contract for the film was signed two years before Disney+ was launched and the actress contacted Marvel in early 2019 raising concerns over Black Widow being released on the platform.
  • Marvel’s chief counsel’s response to these concerns was: “We understand that should the plan change, we would need to discuss this with you and come to an understanding as the deal is based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses.”
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The contract was never changed and, based on the information above, it appears that Johansson has a strong case against Disney. Before we can make deliberations like that, however, we have to take Disney’s side into account.

How Has Disney Responded to the Allegations?

When the suit was first brought forth on 29th July of this year, Disney stated that they had fully complied with Johansson’s contract and that the actress was callously disregarding the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the entertainment industry. Since then, Disney has more accurately clarified its statement by saying:

  • They adhered to the ‘wide theatrical release’ requirement of the contract as it was placed in no less than 1,500 seats.
  • There is nothing in the original agreement with Johansson that stipulates this wide release had to be exclusive to movie theatres. 
  • They have assured Johansson that 100 percent of the proceeds from streaming receipts would be used to calculate additional compensation.

So those are the two sides of the argument as they stand, but what else is happening with this lawsuit?

Is There Anything Else Happening with the Johansson vs Disney Lawsuit?

A few things have happened over this past weekend with this lawsuit.

Disney Filed for Confidential Arbitration

On August 20th 2021, Disney submitted a filing to the Los Angeles County Superior Court to keep future legal battles behind closed doors, likely in pursuit of preserving their reputation.

Disney said that Johansson’s legal counsel, Periwinkle, agreed that all claims relating to Johansson’s Black Widow work would be submitted to confidential, binding arbitration instead of a public court case.

The company also said that the reason Disney was named in the lawsuit and not Marvel was because her lawyers were using gamesmanship to generate publicity. Had Marvel been named, Disney have said, the complaint would’ve automatically gone to private arbitration.

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In response to this Johansson’s team have said it was Disney, not Marvel, who decided the release Black Widow on Disney+ and in theatres on the same day. This means that Disney were the ones who breached the contract and, therefore, this case can be tried in front of a jury.

Elizabeth Olsen has Praised Johansson for Her Courage

Whilst many of Johansson’s Marvel co-stars have come under fire for not standing up for her, Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Scarlett Witch in the studio’s films and hit TV Show Wandavision, has lent her support.

In an interview with Vanity Fair released on 20th August, Olsen said of Johansson’s suit against Disney: “I think she’s so tough and literally when I read that I was like, ‘Good for you Scarlett.’”

Olsen commented on the suit further, stating: “When it comes to actors and their earnings, I mean, that’s just, that’s just all contracts. So, it’s either in the contract or it’s not.”

Only time will tell whether the US courts believes the contract warrants further payment of Scarlett Johansson or if Disney have fulfilled their contractual obligations.

Is That Everything You Need to Know About the Johansson vs. Disney Lawsuit?

In this post, we’ve shared all the information currently available on the Johansson vs. Disney lawsuit.

Given that this suit was filed less than a month ago, the long road ahead will likely reveal more information on this case, and we’ll get to see how Johansson and her lawyers fair against the entertainment giant that is Disney Co.

Photo credits:

Disney castle - Photo by Capricorn song on Unsplash 

Lady liberty holding the scales of justice - Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash Gavel - Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

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