Disney, Scarlett Johannson Settle 'Black Widow' Dispute

Disney and Scarlett Johansson have settled a breach-of-contract lawsuit that had potentially broad implications for entertainment companies’ shifting business models as they juggle streaming services with the traditional cinema box-office channel.

Terms of the settlement were not revealed, but a Deadline source claims it was in the “tens of millions.”

Both sides said they will work together on future Marvel movies.

“I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney,” Johansson said in a statement. “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 in years to come.”  

“I’m very pleased that we have been able to come to a mutual agreement with Scarlett Johansson regarding ‘Black Widow,’” added Alan Bergman, chairman of Disney Studios. “We appreciate her contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and look forward to working together on a number of upcoming projects, including Disney’s ‘Tower of Terror.’”

Johansson’s suit claimed that her contract Disney breached their contract for the movie, which specified theatrical release, simultaneously releasing it on Disney+ Premier Access for a $30 on-demand fee. It asserted that this depressed the box office sales that largely determined her earnings on the film, costing her about $50 million.

The complaint alleged that Disney made the decision to use a so-called day-and-date release in early July of this year, despite theater chains’ pandemic-weakened box office, to boost Disney+.

Disney disputed the claims, and said Johansson had been paid $20 million and could earn more from the Premier Access release.

To date, "Black Widow" has earned $379 million at the worldwide box office.

Johansson reportedly signed her contract in 2017, before the launch of Disney+ and before the pandemic that spurred day-and-date releases. Other A-list stars whose films received day-and-date releases have been said to be considering similar lawsuits, but no others have been filed to date.

Since the pandemic, some stars have negotiated contracts reflecting the changed business realities, including studio deals with cinema chains that include significantly shortened theaters-only release windows.

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