Disney filed a response to Scarlett Johansson’s bombshell lawsuit over Black Widow‘s release late Friday night, asking that the case be handled in confidential arbitration behind closed doors in New York. Johansson quickly responded Saturday morning, demanding to know why Marvel Studios’ parent company does not want the case to unfold publicly. Johansson sued Disney on July 29, arguing that Black Widow‘s Disney+ Premier Access release violated her contract.
“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,” Johnasson’s main attorney, John Berlinski, said in a statement to Deadline Saturday morning. “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+ subscriptions.” However, Berlanksi alleges that this is “exactly” what happened and his team hopes to show the “overwhelming evidence” to prove it.
Late Friday night, Disney’s lawyers filed a motion in Los Angeles Superior Court, asking that the case take place behind closed doors. They allege that Johansson’s company, Periwinkle Entertainment “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,” according to the filing. Disney claims that Periwinkle’s claims in the lawsuit fall within the “scope” of that agreement.
Disney’s lawyers also accuse Johansson of trying to “generate publicity” with a public filing that did not include Marvel as a defendant, instead “substituting” its parent company. Disney asked for a hearing on Oct. 15 on the arbitration matter, adding that they “served” Periwinkle with a “demand for confidential arbitration in New York” on Aug. 10, and Johansson’s attorneys had yet to respond.
In her lawsuit, Johansson claimed Disney promised her a “release that is exclusive” to theaters, reports Deadline. Disney claims this has “no merit,” alleging that there is “nothing in the Agreement requiring that a ‘wide theatrical release’ also be an ‘exclusive’ theatrical release.” They claim there is no mandate that Black Widow could only be released to theaters or that it had to be released on “no less than 1,500 screens.” Disney also claims that it did discuss releasing Black Widow in theaters and on streaming in Spring 2021. “Marvel has assured Johansson that she will 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,” Disney claims.
Friday’s filing also included more numbers on how much Black Widow has made through Disney+ Premier Access. According to Disney, the film has made $125 million from the streaming platform alone, as well as $367 million in theaters worldwide. After Black Widow‘s first weekend in theaters and on Disney+, the studio said the movie made a combined $135 million in the U.S. In its filing Friday night, Disney made a point to note that this was more than Thor: The Dark World, Ant-Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Guardians of the Galaxy made in their first weekends. Johansson earned $20 million upfront for Black Widow, but in her lawsuit, she claims the film’s Disney+ release hurt her chances to earn additional compensation.