On July 29th, 20 days after the release of Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson sued Disney for breach of contract arguing that she was deprived of potential earnings. Johansson was made to understand that Black Widow would have a theatrical release, meaning a window of time would pass before it was streamed on Disney+. Usually, this window is 90 days. This did not happen.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Disney was one of the major studios to opt for hybrid releases, yet, according to Johansson’s lawyers, didn’t engage in negotiations with their talent after the change in release strategy. Releasing new movies on streaming platforms at the same time as the theatrical release has been a point of contention for several creatives, including Christopher Nolan and Patty Jenkins - the latter calling the same-day release for Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) in theatres and HBO Max “heart-breaking”.
Allegedly due to the release strategy, Johansson’s earnings dropped by millions. After all, Johansson is among the many Marvel stars who tied their earnings to box office bonuses. Disney originally responded to Johansson’s lawsuit combatively and unexpectedly revealed Johansson’s fee of $20 million. Johansson’s lawyers called the studio “misogynistic”. It seemed to get nasty, and very public, quickly, but at the time we didn't know what happened next and we can’t be sure of the details.
Now, though, Johansson has settled for $40 million and both parties have released statements expressing their pleasure and excitement to work with each other again. As Johansson is set to star and produce Disney’s Tower of Terror, it seems all’s well that end’s well...
Not so fast.
As the streaming industry increases in importance, everyone involved is bracing themselves for what this means for negotiations, contracts, and pay. For example, Emma Stone, whose movie Cruella (2021) had a same-day streaming and theatrical release, was allegedly enabled by Johansson’s lawsuit to negotiate a better deal for Cruella 2.
So who knows what might happen next.