Scarlett Johansson Sues Disney Over 'Black Widow'' s Streaming Release, Alleges Breach of Contract

Johansson has sued Disney after it released Black Widow simultaneously in movie theaters and on Disney+

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson. Photo: Karwai Tang/Getty

Scarlett Johansson is taking Disney to court.

The actress filed a lawsuit against Disney on Thursday in Los Angeles, alleging the conglomerate breached her contract when it released this summer's blockbuster Black Widow on its Disney+ streaming service at the same time that it was released in movie theaters.

In the lawsuit obtained by PEOPLE, Johansson, 36, said her Black Widow contract with Disney's Marvel Entertainment was for a guaranteed exclusive movie theater release, with the bulk of her salary depending in large part on the film's box office performance.

"Disney intentionally induced Marvel's breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel," the suit said.

In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, her attorney John Berlinski said: "It's no secret that Disney is releasing films like Black Widow directly onto Disney+ to increase subscribers and thereby boost the company's stock price — and that it's hiding behind COVID-19 as a pretext to do so. But ignoring the contracts of the artists responsible for the success of its films in furtherance of this short-sighted strategy violates their rights and we look forward to proving as much in court. This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts."

A Walt Disney Company spokesperson later released a statement slamming the lawsuit, saying: "There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson's contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date."

Johansson has starred as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow since 2010's Iron Man 2 and has since been an integral part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically the company's Avengers films.

Her character died in 2019's Avengers: Endgame. Black Widow was Johansson's only spinoff film involving her character.

Black Widow
Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow (2021). Film Frame/Marvel Studios 2020

Disney's decision to release Black Widow simultaneously in theaters and on its streaming platform matches what the company did for Cruella and Jungle Cruise, which opens in theaters and becomes available on Disney+, for a premium $30 price, on Friday.

Black Widow, which debuted on July 9, earned $80 million at the U.S. box office in its opening weekend and $78 million at the worldwide box office. It earned another $60 million from the Disney+ Premier $30 rental fees on the platform.

Earlier this month, Johansson said in an interview with Fatherly that she had "no plans to return" as Black Widow.

"I feel really satisfied with this film," she said. "It feels like a great way to go out for this chapter of my Marvel identity."

RELATED VIDEO: 'Black Widow': See the Trailer for Scarlett Johansson's First Standalone Marvel Movie

That doesn't mean we won't see the two-time Academy Award nominee around the Marvel Cinematic Universe at all, though.

"I would love to be able to continue to collaborate with Marvel in other ways because I think there's just an incredible wealth of stories there," she said. "Re-imagining this genre is something that I find very interesting."

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"I think there's a lot of opportunities to tell these stories in different ways than audiences have come to expect," Johansson added.

While Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige didn't rule out whether Black Widow would be the last we see of Natasha, he did say in a recent interview with Entertainment Tonight earlier this month that he'd love to work with Johansson again.

"Marvel is always about new beginnings and Scarlett Johansson is such an amazing partner for us," he said. "She was a producer on [Black Widow]. She was the one that brought us our amazing director, Cate Shortland."

"I am excited to continue working with her in any way possible if we're so lucky," added Feige, 48, who is also a producer on the film.

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the news of the lawsuit.

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