Scarlett Johansson and Disney settle dispute: 'happy to have resolved our differences'

The 'Black Widow' star sued the company in July, accusing them of breaching her contract for the Marvel film

This image released by Disney/Marvel Studios' shows Scarlett Johansson in a scene from "Black Widow." Disney announced the film release date as July 9, 2021. (Marvel Studios/Disney via AP)

Actress Scarlett Johansson and Disney have resolved their legal dispute stemming from the release of her Marvel superhero movie Black Widow.

Terms of the settlement between Disney and Johansson's Periwinkle Entertainment company were not disclosed.

Johansson, 36, sued Disney in July, accusing the entertainment giant of breaching her contract when the company offered the movie on its subscription streaming service Disney+ at the same time the film was playing in theatres.

Her complaint, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, argued that the dual-release strategy for Black Widow had reduced her compensation, which she said was to be based in part on box office receipts from an exclusive run in cinemas.

“In the months leading up to this lawsuit, Ms Johansson gave Disney and Marvel every opportunity to right their wrong and make good on Marvel’s promise,” the lawsuit said. “Disney intentionally induced Marvel’s breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms Johansson from realising the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel.”

Disney had countered at the time that there was "no merit" to the lawsuit and asserted that the studio had complied with terms of Johansson's contract.

It also said then that Johansson's lawsuit demonstrated a "callous disregard" for the risks to movie audiences during the Covid-19 pandemic.

(L-R): Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena (Florence Pugh) in Marvel Studios' BLACK WIDOW, in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

The company's response was slammed by a number of Hollywood organisations including the Creative Artists Agency. Women In Film, ReFrame and Time’s Up also released a joint statement.

In August, the president of the powerful Hollywood labour union Sag-Aftra said "Disney should be ashamed of themselves for resorting to tired tactics of gender-shaming and bullying”.

“We are deeply concerned by the gendered tone of Disney’s criticism of Ms Johansson. Women are not ‘callous’ when they stand up and fight for fair pay – they are leaders and champions for economic justice," Gabrielle Carteris said.

The dispute was closely watched for possible ramifications in Hollywood as media companies seek to build their streaming services by offering premium content to lure in subscribers.

Black Widow, which debuted on July 9 and for a $30 charge on Disney+, has grossed more than $378 million in worldwide theatre receipts, according to film tracking service Box Office Mojo. The feature also generated about $60m through streaming purchases in its first 20 days in release, Disney said.

Johansson starred as fictional Russian assassin-turned-Avenger superhero, a role she has played in nine Marvel films.

"I'm very pleased that we have been able to come to a mutual agreement with Scarlett Johansson regarding Black Widow," Alan Bergman, content chairman for Disney Studios, said on Thursday.

He said the company looked forward to working with Johansson on a "number of upcoming projects," including previously reported plans for her to produce and star in a film based on Disney's Tower of Terror theme park rides.

Johansson said she, too, was happy to have resolved her differences with the company.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done together over the years and have greatly enjoyed my creative relationship with the team," she said. "I look forward to continuing our collaboration in years to come.”

– Additional reporting by AP, AFP and Reuters

Updated: October 1st 2021, 8:08 AM