Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson and the Walt Disney Co. settled the lawsuit over the streaming release of Black Widow, bringing a swift end to what had begun as the first major fight between a studio and star over recent changes in rollout plans for films.
However, the terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the two sides released a joint statement on Thursday in which they pledged to continue working together.
In a statement, Johansson said, “I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney.” She continues, “I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done together over the years and have greatly enjoyed my creative relationship with the team. I look forward to continuing our collaboration.”
However, the chairman of Disney Studios Content, Alan Bergman, stated that he is “pleased that we have been able to come to a mutual agreement.” Bergman said, “We appreciate her contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and look forward to working together on a number of upcoming projects.”
Johansson filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court in July, saying the streaming release of the Marvel movie breached her contract and deprived her of potential earnings. The lawsuit said Johansson’s contract guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release, with her potential earnings tied to the box office performance of the film. Disney released the film simultaneously in theaters and through its streaming service Disney+ for a $30 rental.
The rhetoric of the lawsuit and Disney’s response suggested a long and ugly battle was ahead. The lawsuit reads, “In the months leading up to this lawsuit, Ms. Johansson gave Disney and Marvel every opportunity to right their wrong and make good on Marvel’s promise. 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 at the time said the lawsuit had ‘no merit whatsoever,’ adding that it was “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Disney also stated that the changed release plan ‘significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.’
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the movie was delayed more than a year. Black Widow debuted to what was then a pandemic best of $80 million in North America and $78 million from international theaters on 9 July. But theatrical grosses declined sharply after that. On its second weekend, the National Association of Theater Owners issued a rare statement criticizing the strategy.
Johansson has played Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow in nine movies going back to 2010’s Iron Man 2.