Scarlett Johansson has settled her lawsuit with Disney over the release of Marvel Studios’ “Black Widow” on Disney+ at the same time as theaters, representatives for the actress and studio announced on Tuesday.
The sum of the settlement is undisclosed.
“I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney. 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,” Johansson said in a statement.
“I’m very pleased that we have been able to come to a mutual agreement with Scarlett Johansson regarding ‘Black Widow,’” said Disney Studios chairman Alan Bergman. “We appreciate her contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and look forward to working together on a number of upcoming projects, including Disney’s ‘Tower of Terror.’”
Johansson sued Disney in July over the studio’s decision to release “Black Widow” as a day-and-date title, arguing that Disney had promised that the film would be released exclusively in theaters and the decision to move it to a hybrid release cost her potential bonuses related to the film’s box office performance. The film has grossed $183.5 million domestically and $378.8 million worldwide.
By comparison, fellow Marvel film “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” was released in September in theaters only and is set to become the first film since the pandemic began to gross $200 million domestically. The film is also set to pass “Black Widow” globally with $366 million grossed so far.
Disney countered by claiming in a statement that Johansson was paid $20 million for the film and that the actress’ lawsuit was “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The statement led multiple figures in Hollywood to lash out in Johansson’s defense, including former SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris and CAA Co-Chair Bryan Lourd, who said that Disney was trying “to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t.”
Last month, insiders told TheWrap that the public storm over the lawsuit created internal conflict amidst Disney’s top execs, with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige expressing anger at Disney CEO Bob Chapek over how he handled the company’s relationship with one of Marvel’s most important actors.
“[Chapek] did what was the right move for his shareholders, which is to drive people to Disney+, which he has successfully done while also increasing the stock price,” a top agent said. “Notably, the numerous successes of the various Marvel (theatrical) films have done nothing to increase the Disney stock price. But increased subscriptions to Disney+ has. So what’s $50 million or so to Chapek?”
But the settlement comes as Disney is, at least for now, backing off the moves that helped fuel subscriptions for the already surging Disney+. Earlier this month, Disney announced that following the success of “Shang-Chi” and 20th Century’s “Free Guy” as theatrically exclusive titles, it would release all of its remaining 2021 films in theaters only.
The Walt Disney Animation title “Encanto” will have a 30-day theatrical exclusive window before hitting Disney+ on Christmas Eve, while the rest of the studio’s slate — including Marvel’s “Eternals” and 20th Century’s “West Side Story” — would get a 45-day exclusive window.
The settled lawsuit punctuates the tug-of-war between studios and top actors as execs have tried to navigate releasing films during the COVID-19 pandemic. Releasing films in theaters and on streaming simultaneously has allowed studios to hedge their bets with audiences that might not be comfortable seeing films in theaters but can run afoul of actors like Johansson who have back-end deals tied to box-office performance tied into their contracts.
One of the other high profile examples of this conflict came when Warner Bros. announced its plans to release all of its 2021 films simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, shocking actors, filmmakers and production partners alike. Earlier this week, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said that while he felt the move was a necessary response to the state of the pandemic, he regretted not giving partners like Legendary Pictures and director Denis Villeneuve, who are behind the Warner blockbuster “Dune,” enough ample notice to discuss how this would impact their films.
“We endeavored to do the right thing in terms of communication. But I would be the first one to say, and the responsibility rests on my shoulders, that in hindsight, we should have taken the better part of a month to have over 170 conversations, which is the number of participants that are in our 2021 film slate,” Kilar said at Code Con. “We tried to do that in a compressed period of time — less than a week — because of course there was going to be leaks there was going to be everybody opining on whether we should do this or not do this. And again, change is hard.”