Scarlett Johansson, whose time as an Avenger appears to be coming to an end, has launched a breach of contract lawsuit against Marvel-owner Disney. The case, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court this week, claims that the studio broke its contract with the celebrity by simultaneously releasing the film on Disney+ and in theatres.
“A ‘theatrical release,’ as Ms. Johansson, Disney, Marvel, and nearly everyone else in Hollywood understands, is a release that is exclusive to movie theatres,” the document states flatly. “Disney was well aware of this agreement, but it nonetheless directed Marvel to break it by releasing the film on the Disney+ streaming service the same day it was released in theatres.”In the short term, the epidemic has profoundly changed the way first-run movies are delivered and consumed. Disney and other studios have chosen to distribute films directly to streaming in 2020.
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Johansson’s reservations about streaming services predate the pandemic, according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by TechCrunch. According to the lawsuit, when Disney created the streaming service Disney+, Johansson’s reps asked Disney/Marvel for assurances that the Black Widow solo film would still get a theatrical release, despite the company’s efforts to raise subscription numbers. It quotes an email from May of that year with Marvel’s chief counsel:
In a statement to TechCrunch, the actress’s attorney John Berlinski said, “It’s no secret that Disney is distributing films like “Black Widow” directly onto Disney+ to attract subscribers and hence improve the company’s stock price — and that it’s hiding behind COVID-19 as a pretext to do so.” “However, neglecting the contracts of the artists responsible for the success of its films in order to pursue this short-sighted plan is a violation of their rights, and we look forward to establishing it in court. This will undoubtedly not be the last time Hollywood stars stand up to Disney and make it obvious that, whatever the firm claims, it is legally bound to follow its contracts.”
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