Scarlett Johansson sues Disney over “Black Widow”


Marvel Studios

“When a company as profitable and well-recognized as the Walt Disney Company gets ridiculed by a famous actor, many fans will definitely look at them in a different light. Behind most of these billion-dollar companies are people who only want money,” NC senior Harmony Harvey-Morris said. Several NC students agree that Disney’s lack of regard for their employees mimics that of numerous business practices, who will do whatever it takes to be at the top.

Hannah Gresham, Features Editor

Scarlett Johansson, known as Black Widow to Marvel fans, filed a lawsuit against Disney because of the day-and-date release of her new movie in July 2021. The film became available on Disney Plus the same day it hit theaters, which Johansson claims limited the amount of money she earned from the film.

Johansson finalized the terms of release for Black Widow in 2017, long before the Disney Plus streaming service became accessible to customers. At the time, her team did not deem it necessary to arrange terms based on streaming services, since its popularity only recently became prevalent. 

Her contract specified Black Widow would debut with a ‘wide theatrical release,’ but that it would be exclusively theatrical appears to have been only an understanding,” Catie Keck, writer for The Verge, wrote. 

Disney Plus debuted in 2019, and after the launch, Marvel assured Johansson’s representatives that they understood her paycheck would largely come from the box office receipts and agreed to theatrical exclusivity, similar to their past movies. Despite these promises, the company announced that Black Widow would premiere on Disney Plus in early 2021. 

The lawsuit alleges that Disney’s day-and-date release happened for a specific reason: to benefit themselves. Motivation may stem from the desire for more subscribers, or simply to decrease Johansson’s paycheck and increase their own. However, the multi-billion dollar company claims the case holds no worth

In addition, Disney argues that the lawsuit lacks any regard for COVID-19 protocols. The release on the streaming service stood as a courtesy to those who preferred to stay safe in the comfort of their own homes. By doing so, Disney claims Johansson earned a larger paycheck. However, the dominating demeanor of Disney Plus saved Marvel money while costing Johansson her deserved earnings. 

“I think Disney is using [the] Covid [pandemic] to cover the truth behind the simultaneous release, but no one can really get mad about it. If they didn’t offer the movie on Disney Plus, I think there would have been a lot of uproar too,” NC senior Sammy Rose said.

Regardless of who wins the case, the lack of transparency in the streaming industry causes major difficulties for numerous actors. Without clear contracts and negotiations, several performers struggle to advocate for themselves and receive their deserved pay. Johansson’s absence of precise communication could cost her millions of dollars. With the addition of new streaming options, the movie industry changed drastically.