Disney is Striking First in the Scarlett Johansson ‘Black Widow’ Lawsuit

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Update – 8:45am

Scarlett Johansson’s legal team have responded to Disney arbitration requests.

“After initially responding to this litigation with a misogynistic attack against Scarlett Johansson, Disney is now, predictably, trying to hide its misconduct in a confidential arbitration,” said the Oscar nominee’s main lawyer John Berlinski today after the House of Mouse’s response to Johansson’s scathing profits lawsuit went public.

“Why is Disney so afraid of litigating this case in public?,” added the Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP attorney.

“Because it knows that Marvel’s promises to give Black Widow a typical theatrical release ‘like its other films’ had everything to do with guaranteeing that Disney wouldn’t cannibalize box office receipts in order to boost Disney+ subscriptions,” Berlinski adds, as Disney insists Marvel’s contract with Johansson provides for arbitration exactly in the event of a dispute like this one that erupted on July 29. “Yet that is exactly what happened – and we look forward to presenting the overwhelming evidence that proves it.”

Original Story – 8:15am

Disney is making the first move in the ongoing Scarlett Johansson — Black Widow drama. The studio is demanding the lawsuit over Johansson’s pay be moved to arbitration. What is arbitration? Arbitration is a procedure in which a dispute is submitted, by agreement of the parties, to one or more arbitrators who make a binding decision on the dispute. In choosing arbitration, the parties opt for a private dispute resolution procedure instead of going to court.

In her complaint, Johansson claims Disney breached contract when the studio made the decision to release Black Widow on Disney+, the same day the Marvel film hit theaters. The actress earns bonuses when the film hits certain box office milestones and she is accusing Disney of not having the film exclusively in theaters because it “saw the opportunity to promote its flagship subscription service.”

Read: Emma Stone and Disney Renegotiate Cruella Payout & Proceed with Sequel, Johansson’s Lawsuit Stumbles Forward

Johansson’s contract deal was actually done through Marvel, not Disney. She is alleging that Disney was in the ear of Marvel to breach the contract. Now, Johansson isn’t suing Marvel, she is suing their parent company, Disney’s attorneys Daniel Petrocelli and Leah Godeski tell the court that an arbitration provision in that contract between Johansson’s loan-out and Marvel applies anyway.

Disney’s move to push for arbitration isn’t an unexpected move, and while Disney’s papers detail for the first time the exact language of the arbitration provision (see here), the company’s lawyers also make points that are less legally important at this juncture but will certainly attract notice.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney has said Black Widow was released on over 9,000 screens in the U.S., which the studios says fulfills its obligation the film screen on no less than 1,500. As of last week, Black Widow has grossed $367M worldwide, and more than $125M via Disney+ Premier Access purchases. Except these numbers to go up a little higher as this weekends box numbers get revealed tomorrow.

In what I feel is a weird statement, Disney is comparing Black Widow’s opening weekend numbers to other films in the MCU, saying it grossed more than films such as Thor: The Dark WorldAnt-ManAnt-Man and the Wasp; and Guardians of the Galaxy. Again, a weird comparison for Disney to make considering the circumstances Black Widow was released in.

Sadly, this ongoing drama is far from over and despite Disney trying to calm the storm, it’s a bit to late for that this has become hot legal news that people want to see. Disney probably should have privately spoken with Johansson when the lawsuit was initially filed. instead they went the route a firing back and using Covid as an excuse.

Disney was able to take care of Emma Stone before her Cruella contract became a legal issue and now the actress has an 8-figure deal for a sequel, which is in the early stages of development. Now, with the Johansson suit at the stage it’s at, we can confirm previous reports that the actress is no longer attached to the long-in-development Tower of Terror movie, which had her onboard as a producer with the likelihood her starring.

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