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Disney Files Motion To Move Scarlett Johansson's Lawsuit To Private Arbitration
Disney has filed for private arbitration in a lawsuit involving Marvel's 'Black Widow' actor Scarlett Johansson to address whether she is owed millions from the hybrid release of the movie.
Disney has filed for private arbitration in a lawsuit involving Marvel's 'Black Widow' actor Scarlett Johansson to address whether she is owed millions from the hybrid release of the movie. According to the motion viewed by Variety, attorney Daniel Petrocelli argues that "Disney lived up to its obligation to give the film a wide theatrical release", but that nothing in the contract required the release to be exclusive to theatres.
Johansson filed a lawsuit on July 29, claiming that the decision to simultaneously release 'Black Widow' in theatres and on Disney Plus decreased the film's box office revenue and she incurred a loss of millions of dollars due to that. In the motion, Petrocelli also argued that 'Black Widow' actually performed well, considering the ongoing pandemic.
The Marvel movie was released on July 9 and as per Variety, it grossed USD 80 million domestically in its opening weekend. The amount was very low if compared to pre-pandemic Marvel standards, but it earned USD 10 million more than Universal's 'F9', which was an exclusive theatrical release. Disney claims that despite not being required under the contract to do so, the company agreed to add streaming receipts to the box office total, in order to calculate Johansson's backend participation.
Variety reported that Johansson's contract dates from 2017, two years before the debut of Disney Plus, so its terms do not contemplate a streaming release. Johansson's lawyers have also argued that Marvel's general counsel confirmed in 2019 that the studio would release the film "like our other pictures."
According to Johansson's suit, the actor alleges that Marvel breached her contract. But, the suit does not state a plain breach of contract claim. Instead, attorney John Berlinski filed suit against Disney, the parent company, alleging that Disney had interfered with the subsidiary's contract with Johansson in order to boost Disney Plus, reported Variety. "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," Berlinski said in a statement to Variety.
Berlinski added, "Why is Disney so afraid of litigating this case in public? 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 Plus subscriptions. Yet that is exactly what happened -- and we look forward to presenting the overwhelming evidence that proves it." Addressing the motion as "gamesmanship," Petrocelli's argues that Johansson agreed to arbitrate all claims "arising out of, in connection with, or relating to" her contract with Marvel.
"Whether Periwinkle's claims against Disney fall within the scope of that agreement is not a close call. The plain and expansive language of the arbitration agreement easily encompasses Periwinkle's Complaint," Petrocelli argued.
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