Scarlett Johansson Sues Disney Over “Black Widow” Streaming Release

July 29, 2021

By Ali Pelura

Only weeks after the release of “Black Widow,” Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney, the parent company of Marvel Studios. 

Johansson and her legal team filed the lawsuit Thursday at Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming that Disney broke the agreement Marvel had made to only release “Black Widow” in theaters. 

This agreement was originally made when the film was set for a theater-only release on May 1st, 2020. The date was then adjusted multiple times due to COVID-19. It finally hit theaters on July 9th, 2021. Like other movies Disney has released during the pandemic such as “Mulan” and “Cruella,” “Black Widow” was also offered through Disney+ Premier Access (an option on the streaming platform that allows subscribers to pay an additional $30 to stream the new movie). 

Although Johansson is one of the highest paid female actresses in Hollywood with an estimated net worth of around $165 million, the decision to release her widely anticipated film on Disney+ is said to have cost her millions. The Wall Street Journal estimates that Johansson lost approximately $50 million because a large percentage of her salary comes from box office 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 lawsuit accused. 

Unlike some of her fellow co-stars from the franchise, Johansson is not obligated to star in any more Marvel films. While the film was released more than two years after “Avengers: Endgame,” in which Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) dies, it is actually set shortly after the events of “Captain America: Civil War.” This means that the movie marks the end of a more-than-ten-year run of the iconic character. 

Although the role has been such an important part of Johansson’s career, she is not afraid to stand up to Disney. She waited years for a solo film, and she is not the only actor or filmmaker to be wronged in a streaming service release. 

Her lawyer, John Berlinski explained to the Wall Street Journal, “This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts.”