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Scarlett Johansson, who plays the Marvel superhero Black Widow in an upcoming film, has filed a lawsuit against Disney following the latter's decision of releasing Black Widow on Disney Plus at the same time it hit theatres, as per a report by Variety.
In the lawsuit, attorneys for Johansson allege that the actor's contract was breached when the studio decided against releasing the film exclusively in theatres, a move they claimed depressed ticket sales.
"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,” the suit reads.
In March, Disney announced that Black Widow would be simultaneously releasing in theatres as well as the streaming platform. The decision was taken as the movie theatre industry was still recovering from COVID closures and capacity restrictions. In July, the film created a pandemic-era box office record with its $80 million debut in North America and earned an additional $78 million overseas. It also raked in $60 million on Disney Plus. However, ticket sales steeply declined in the subsequent weeks and currently stand at $319 million globally, making Black Widow one of the lowest grossing Marvel movies.
Johansson's suit, however, alleges that Disney's stocks rose after the company disclosed the rental figures.
John Berlinski, an attorney for Johansson, told Variety, "By releasing films like Black Widow directly onto Disney Plus, the studio is attempting to increase subscribers and boost the company's stock price. COVID is merely an excuse. But ignoring the contracts of artistes who are responsible for the success of films is a violation of their rights".
Johansson's legal team said that the actor's representatives were worried about Black Widow's digital release even before the pandemic struck. The team claimed that after the star's management group asked the studio to guarantee an exclusive theatre release, Marvel Chief Counsel Dave Galluzzi promised that.
Disney has responded to the lawsuit. A statement quoted by Variety read, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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