Scarlett Johansson, star of “Black Widow,” is suing Disney over the release of the Marvel film. Johansson says Disney’s failure to give the movie an exclusive theatrical release was a breach of contract that cost her $50 million in box office bonuses. “Black Widow” opened in theaters and was available to stream on Disney+ for a $30 charge on the same day.
The film’s box office receipts dropped precipitously in the second weekend of release. A part of that drop could have been because big Marvel fans who wanted to watch the movie again were doing so at home on Disney+, rather than returning to theaters.
Disney bragged that “Black Widow” made $60 million on its streaming platform during opening weekend, and stock prices went up because of that news. Johansson says this is in direct opposition to her success as an actress — she’d have made more money if the film had only been in theaters.
Johansson’s lawsuit also points out an email that a Marvel lawyer sent to her team guaranteeing that “Black Widow” would come out exclusively in theaters and understanding that they would need to discuss it with her should plans change.
This is likely just the beginning of a long battle between stars and movie studios over theatrical compensation in the streaming age.