Disney says there is "no merit" to Scarlett Johansson's lawsuit against the company after she sued The Walt Disney Co. late Thursday for an alleged breach of contract.
Johansson made a complaint about the studio's offering of her movie "Black Widow" on its streaming service, Disney+ at the same time it was released in theaters.
Disney said there was no merit in Johansson's case because it complied with her contract, Reuters said. It said the movie's release on the streaming service had "significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20 million she has received to date."
The star filed her complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court and claimed the movie's dual release strategy had "reduced her compensation." A big part of the actor's payment was based on box office revenue - which was supposed to run in the cinemas alone.
"Black Widow" was released July 9 in theaters and had a $30 charge on Disney+. Disney has been testing the waters by releasing some movies on its streaming website during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a lot of theaters are still closed around the world, it helps boost the company's streaming service.
However, Johansson claimed Disney wanted more viewers for Disney+ and to "keep the revenue for itself." This would help increase the application's subscriber base and, at the same time boost Disney's stock price.
"Second, Disney wanted to substantially devalue Johansson's agreement and thereby enrich itself," the lawsuit said. The suit doesn't specify damages which will be determined at trial.
According to The Guardian, "Black Widow" started strong with $80 million in box office revenue in the U.S. - though it went down in its second week. It showed the steepest second-week decline of any Marvel Cinematic Universe entry - dropping 67%.
Exhibitors criticized Disney for this and blamed the streaming release. In a statement, the National Association of Theater Owners said the movie's theater performance showed an "exclusive theatrical release means more revenue for all stakeholders in every cycle of the movie's life."
In March, Disney announced "Black Widow" would hit theaters and be available for rent on Disney+ simultaneously. It had already made about $60 million through rentals in its opening weekend - so its international revenue is now $319 million Marvel Cinematic Universe - which is one of the lowest-performing Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to date.