The Wall Street Journal

July 29, 2021, 6:42 p.m. EDT

Scarlett Johansson sues Disney over ‘Black Widow’ streaming release

By Joe Flint, and Erich Schwartzel

Black Widow has a new enemy: the Walt Disney Co.

Scarlett Johansson, star of the latest Marvel movie “Black Widow,” filed a lawsuit Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Disney (NYS:DIS) , alleging her contract was breached when the media giant released the film on its Disney+ streaming service at the same time as its theatrical debut.

Johansson said in the suit that her agreement with Disney’s Marvel Entertainment guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release, and her salary was based in large part on the  box-office performance of the film .

“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 said.

A Disney spokesman said Johansson’s suit had no merit and is “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The company said 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.”

The suit could be a bellwether for the entertainment industry. Major media companies are giving priority to their streaming services in pursuit of growth, and are increasingly putting their high-value content on those platforms. Those changes have significant financial implications for actors and producers, who want to ensure that growth in streaming doesn’t come at their expense.

An expanded version of this article appears on WSJ.com.

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