Scarlett Johansson has sued Disney for breaching their contract. This is no less than a clear sign of Black Widow’s exit from the MCU.
Black Widow is Scarlett Johansson’s last project as the character in the MCU. Furthermore, that she has sued Disney further sort of wipes off any possibilities of her return. Will this affect the releases of future MCU projects?
Watch: Every Avenger’s Ability Taskmaster Copies – Black Widow
The Black Widow Lawsuit
Johansson filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Disney. According to the contract, Black Widow was supposed to be an exclusive theatrical release. Her salary too would be determined based on the box office performance of the movie. However, Disney released the movie in theatres and on the Disney+ OTT platform simultaneously. Despite having the biggest weekend opening post the pandemic, the movie’s second weekend saw a 67% drop in its collection. Currently, it is the 2nd-lowest MCU domestic grosser, falling only behind The Incredible Hulk (2008).
After the film’s dual-release, Johansson’s representatives reportedly reached out to Disney to renegotiate her contract but the Disney was unresponsive. The lawsuit stated: “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.” Disney responded claiming that it “fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20 million she has received to date.” Be that as it may, the dual release of Black Widow could cost Scarlett Johansson a whopping $50 million.
Black Widow and The OTT Theory
According to The Wall Street Journal, Disney executives feared that releasing Black Widow, or any MCU movie for that matter, on the OTT platform would affect them negatively. Then why they decided to release Black Widow on Disney+ we do not know. Stats are proof that all the pre-pandemic MCU movies opened number one at the box office and many of them even crossed the $1 billion mark in worldwide collections. On the other hand, Black Widow was Marvel’s first movie post the pandemic, the previous three being series i.e. WandaVision, TFATWS, and Loki. So perhaps, Black Widow was a litmus test for Marvel to figure out how a movie would work in a continued pandemic situation.
But let us not blame Disney’s decision to release Black Widow in both theatres and on the OTT platform as the sole reason for the movie’s perpetual downfall. The movie itself has received mixed reviews, especially due to the flawed portrayal of its villain, the Taskmaster. What further added to the decline was the hype around the movie which made the downfall appear heavier than it may be for real. A movie, if it is good, will be able to garner more than its budget at least. And if audiences like it, profit is guaranteed. Unfortunately, the dual release does play a major role here as a one-time payment of $30 allows a person to watch the movie again and again. Further, sharing the VIP access also lets other people watch the movie as many times as they want. And every time a person watches the movie on Disney+, Disney incurs a loss.
The Post-Pandemic Possibility
Let us also not strike out the possibility that Marvel chose Black Widow, over any other movie slated for a future release, to be the first post-pandemic release because the production giant was aware of the movie’s possible collapse. Captain Marvel (2019)was Marvel’s only female-superhero movie, before Black Widow. And it crossed $1 billion globally. But that was the first movie featuring a woman superhero, so we have to consider it as a more-than-Marvel venture and a breakthrough in superhero movies. This certainly added to more people going to the theatres to watch it, thereby adding to the collection. This was not the case with Black Widow. And unfortunately, it did backfire. And it does seem like this will be the last time, we will see Scarlet Johansson in the MCU.
Meanwhile, Black Widow’s Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) will next appear in the upcoming Disney+ Hawkeye series that will release in late 2021.