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Rotten Bananas: Scarlett Johansson vs Disney

“Black Widow” was a much sought-after movie from fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Many fans questioned why Natasha Romanoff hadn’t received her own solo movie yet and, even through a global pandemic, Disney and the team at Marvel Studios were prepared to deliver. However, the sun isn’t rising on the Black Widow anymore. Johansson, with her legal team, have launched a lawsuit against Disney and Marvel Studios because of lost profits on the latest MCU outing. Her claim is that because the movie was simultaneously released in theatres and offered on streaming services, the actress lost out on potential income from ticket sales.

Here is a quick rundown of how most movie actors get paid from doing movies (spoiler alert: it’s not like an office job where you clock in and out). Most big-name celebrities get paid by way of a lump sum and then, they receive a certain percentage of ticket sales in theatres. In recent years, Disney and HBO Max have been experimenting with simultaneous releases. This has been met with some distinct controversy from all sides of the movie industry.

Johansson’s lawsuit is a strike to Disney’s business model, but will anything come of it? It’s quite tough to say. The contracts for things like this (completely private enterprises) are not something that prying eyes can linger on. It’s hard for Jane Q. Public to jump in and see exactly what Mrs. Johansson is being paid and for what exactly. However, there a few possible outcomes to this lawsuit scenario.

Outcome One: The lawsuit goes forward to litigation; Johansson’s lawyers can emphatically prove that her contract stipulates any profits from ticket sales with no delineation about in-person or virtual and Disney bites the bullet on this one. The added caveat for this outcome is that it could lead to a flood of other lawsuits. Various celebrities such as Emma Stone of “Cruella” have already announced their legal teams and agents are looking into possible legal avenues for the same problem.

Outcome Two: The lawsuit doesn’t go anywhere. It gets handled completely through arbitration and we never hear about it again. This outcome would probably involve some measure of compensation to Johansson as well as the professional relationship between the actress and Disney disintegrating completely. Disney is enough of an industry powerhouse that studios and entertainment companies may be watching with hungry eyes to snatch her up. Johansson has a star power that is hard to replicate, and she’s far from done with a career on the silver screen.

Disney is powerful, but this could certainly put a dent in their cultural reputation. That is, until they buy up more and more of entertainment until actors like Johansson who deign to stand up for their own interests can be successfully blacklisted for speaking out of turn. This is obviously a dystopian scenario but with Disney’s relentless pursuit of more and more properties, it may not be long before lawsuits like Johansson’s become increasingly more and more taboo. Only time will tell the consequences of this legal endeavor and we will be watching with great interest.

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