The past few weeks have been very busy for Marvel Studios and ex-Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson as the war of words following the lawsuit continues. Johansson had filed a lawsuit against Marvel following the epileptic performance of her solo movie, Black Widow, which was released four weeks ago. Although the movie made a measly $80 million in its first weekend in the US Box Office, it generated over $78 million globally and $60 million from Disney’s premium streaming service. Unfortunately, the movie lost pace after only the first weekend, dropping a whopping 67% the following weekend.
Johansson sued Disney, stating that the dual release of the Marvel movie in theatres and on Disney+ simultaneously was responsible for the movie’s stunted theatre revenue. A representative from Johansson’s agency recently told the Wall Street Journal that Disney’s decision to go ahead with the simultaneous release has caused the actress to lose over $50million she could have made from extra revenue. The suit also says that Johansson and her team had sought discussions with Disney before the film’s release to get assurances concerning the release and how it would affect her earnings.
Disney Seeks Confidential Arbitration
Disney, however, has been adamant in its stance, insisting that the company had fully complied with the contract terms and describing the suit as having “no merit whatsoever”. Dan Petrocelli, a partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLP, a law firm representing Disney updated the Wall Street Journal on Marvel’s stance saying that Johansson’s contract did not include any restriction clauses for the movie’s distribution, and they would seek confidential arbitration with Johansson and her team.
Marvel CEO Weighs In On Legal Tussle
Several people have weighed in on the legal tussle and given their opinions on Disney’s handling of the situation. Marvel CEO, Kevin Feige was one of the first to speak on the matter and he expressed worry over the matter. Feige believed that a nasty legal tussle with one of Marvel’s top talents would make it difficult for him to properly do his job.
Even though the Black Widow movie is probably Johansson’s last movie in the MCU, Feige insists that ending the relationship on a sour note can affect his ability to attract top talent. And if he can’t hire the best people to work with because they feel Disney doesn’t treat their own well, then it might just set off a ripple effect of poor standards across the whole MCU.
Screen Creators Guild Slams Disney’s Tone
The latest to speak out on the Black Widow matter is the president of the SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) union, Gabrielle Carteris, who commended Johansson for “shining a white-hot spotlight on the improper shifts in compensation that companies are attempting to slip by talent as distribution models change.” She also cited concern over Disney’s tone which she termed as ‘gendered’. Women are not ‘callous’ when they stand up and fight for fair pay—they are leaders and champions for economic justice.
Women have been victimized by pay inequity for decades, and they have been further victimized by comments like those in Disney’s press statements. These sorts of attacks have no place in our society and SAG-AFTRA will continue to defend our members from all forms of bias
Although Disney continues to maintain its position and seek confidential arbitration, they would certainly want to sort this out as soon as possible. With a full slate of upcoming movies and TV shows amidst a resurgent pandemic, Disney and the MCU cannot afford to have a legal tussle that exposes a bad relationship with their top talent.
Johansson on the other hand doesn’t appear to be backing down and her lawyer, John Berlinski, has accused Disney of trying to hide its misbehaviour behind a confidential arbitration clause. Indeed, when Warne Bros had to make a similar decision with its titles like Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and The Suicide Squad, the movies were given a 90-120 theatre timeline before hitting streaming platforms and contracts were considerably renegotiated.
It is unclear at this point if a settlement will soon be reached, but it is clear that Disney has a whole lot to lose from a prolonged legal tussle and would likely be looking to clear things up in the coming days.
Johansson’s solo movie, Black Widow in its 5th week has made over $367 million wroldwide.