Scarlett Johansson and Disney Reach Settlement Over ‘Black Widow’ Pay
LOS ANGELES — Scarlett Johansson and Walt Disney Studios reached a settlement on Thursday in a legal dispute involving streaming-era compensation for the superhero film “Black Widow.”
Terms were not disclosed.
“I am happy to have resolved our differences,” Ms. Johansson, the title star of the movie, said in a statement. “I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done together over the years and have greatly enjoyed my creative relationship with the team. I look forward to continuing our collaboration in years to come.”
Alan Bergman, chairman of Disney Studios Content, echoed her comments and added that Disney would move forward with Ms. Johansson “on a number of upcoming projects.” They include an adventure film based on Tower of Terror, a popular ride at Walt Disney World.
Ms. Johansson, who has played the Marvel character Black Widow in eight blockbuster films, sued Disney over the summer for breach of contract. A blistering response from a Disney spokeswoman put Ms. Johansson’s representatives at Creative Artists Agency on war footing with the entertainment conglomerate. Hollywood lit up with chatter that a bevy of other stars were similarly unhappy with Disney and poised to follow her to the courts.
In her lawsuit, Ms. Johansson claimed that Disney breached her contract when it released “Black Widow” simultaneously in theaters and on the Disney+ streaming service in early July. The suit said that Disney had promised that “Black Widow” would receive an exclusive release in theaters for about 90 to 120 days and that her compensation — based largely on bonuses tied to ticket sales — had been gutted as a result of the hybrid release.
Simultaneous availability on Disney+, where subscribers could watch the film instantly (and have permanent access to it) for a $30 surcharge, “dramatically decreased box office revenue,” Ms. Johansson said in the suit.
Over its first three days in release, “Black Widow” took in $158 million at theaters worldwide and about $60 million on Disney+ Premier Access. Total ticket sales now stand at $379 million, the lowest total for a Marvel Studios release since 2008, when “The Incredible Hulk” collected $265 million, or $341 million in today’s dollars. Disney has not given a running total for Disney+ sales of “Black Widow.”
Ms. Johansson would have made tens of millions of dollars in box office bonuses if “Black Widow” had approached $1 billion in global ticket sales; “Captain Marvel” and “Black Panther” both exceeded that threshold in prepandemic release, so similar turnout for “Black Widow” was not out of the question.
The Wall Street Journal reported this month that Creative Artists had privately asked Disney to pay Ms. Johansson $80 million — on top of her base salary of $20 million — to compensate for lost bonuses. Disney did not respond with a counteroffer, prompting her to sue.
The action got Disney’s attention and then some. “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing,” Disney said in a statement in July that went on to cast Ms. Johansson as greedy. “The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Disney said then.
On Thursday, Mr. Bergman said he was “very pleased” to have “come to a mutual agreement” with Ms. Johansson.
As for the predicted torrent of similar lawsuits from other stars, none have materialized. Not long after Ms. Johansson filed her complaint, Disney privately reached compensation agreements with actresses such as Emma Stone, whose “Cruella” was distributed in the same manner as “Black Widow.”