Black Widow Suit: Disney Moves For Arbitration, Johansson Responds

The Black Widow lawsuit continues to unfold both publicly as Disney, and Scarlett Johansson's team continue to take swipes at each other in the legal sense. Last month, Johansson filed a suit for breach of contract and lost revenue, saying that it was in her contract that Black Widow would have a theatrical-only release, and because of the Disney+ release, she lost out on significant revenue. Disney fired back by stating how much Johansson got paid to be in Black Widow and seemed to imply that Johansson didn't care about the pandemic. There have been some responses from other parties, but we got a major response last night. In a 23 page motion filed by Disney last night, obtained and summarized by Deadline, they are trying to move the case behind closed doors and moves for arbitration.

"Periwinkle agreed that all claims 'arising out of, in connection with, or relating to' Scarlett Johansson's acting services for Black Widow would be submitted to confidential, binding arbitration in New York," says the motion filed in LA Superior Court on Friday by Disney's outside lawyers Daniel Petrocelli, Leah Godesky and Tim Heafner of O'Melveny & Myers LLP against Johansson and her company.

Scarlett Johansson Sues Disney Over Black Widow's Hybrid Release
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Marvel Studios' BLACK WIDOW, in theaters, and on Disney+ with Premier Access. Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Much in the same way they asserted that Johansson got paid for Black Widow and the "not caring about the pandemic" implication, there is also language within the new filing that seems to imply that Johansson is doing this for attention or publicity. Here is the full motion for you to read.

"In a futile effort to evade this unavoidable result (and generate publicity through a public filing), Periwinkle excluded Marvel as a party to this lawsuit––substituting instead its parent company Disney under contract-interference theories," they lash out. "But longstanding principles do not permit such gamesmanship."

The motion went on to say that Disney did talk to Johansson about the Black Widow release in Spring of 2021 and that she would be credited with 100% of the Premier Access and PEHV receipts for purposes of the box-office thresholds used to calculate any additional compensation – even though Marvel has no obligation under the Agreement to do so." The motion went on to say that there was "no merit" in the filing for breach of contract."

"Although Marvel and Disney share Periwinkle's frustration with the challenges associated with releasing films during an ever-shifting public-health crisis, Periwinkle's claims that Marvel breached the Agreement and Disney induced that breach or otherwise interfered with the Agreement have no merit," last night's motion states. "There is nothing in the Agreement requiring that a 'wide theatrical release' also be an 'exclusive' theatrical release."

"The contract does not mandate theatrical distribution––let alone require that any such distribution be exclusive," it goes on to say. "Moreover, the contract expressly provides that any theatrical-distribution obligations are satisfied by distribution on "no less than 1500 screens." And even though Black Widow's release coincided with a global public-health crisis, Marvel made good on its promises."

The motion went on to say Black Widow "has grossed more than $367 million in worldwide box-office receipts and more than $125 million in streaming and download retail receipts." After many weeks of people who don't understand the box office saying that the movie is a flop, between the two revenue sources, Black Widow has still made over half a billion dollars despite the box office issues it was facing due to COVID-19. The filing from Disney happened very late last night, and Johansson's team replied this morning.

"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," said the Oscar nominee's main lawyer John Berlinski today after the House of Mouse's response to Johansson's scathing profits lawsuit went public. "Why is Disney so afraid of litigating this case in public?," added the Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP attorney."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+ subscriptions," Berlinski adds, as Disney insists Marvel's contract with Johansson provides for arbitration exactly in the event of a dispute like this one that erupted on July 29. "Yet that is exactly what happened – and we look forward to presenting the overwhelming evidence that proves it."

When this suit first dropped, nearly everyone thought it was going to be settled behind closed doors, and maybe that would have been the case initially.  Johansson burning the Disney bridge entirely would be a huge thing; she wouldn't just lose out on the Marvel universe but any Disney movies, 20th Century Studios, and Searchlight, who is the studio people want to work with when it comes to awards.

Summary: Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.

Black Widow, directed by Cate Shortland, stars Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O. T. Fagbenle, Rachel Weisz, and Ray Winstone. It was released on July 9, 2021, in theatres and on Disney+ with Premier Access.

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About Kaitlyn Booth

Kaitlyn is the Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. She loves movies, television, and comics. She's a member of the UFCA and the GALECA. Feminist. Writer. Nerd. Follow her on Twitter @katiesmovies and @safaiagem on Instagram.
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