Scarlett Johansson Lawsuit: Dwayne Johnson Won't Sue Disney Over Jungle Cruise on Disney+
It's smooth sailing for Disney and Dwayne Johnson: the Jungle Cruise star and producer reportedly isn't going to follow suit with Scarlett Johansson and file suit against the Walt Disney Company over his new movie's day-and-date release on Disney+. Johansson, the star and executive producer of Marvel's Black Widow, made waves Thursday when she sued Disney alleging breach of contract over the studio's failure to fulfill the "promise" of an exclusive theatrical release. Because the company made Black Widow available to stream on Disney+ on the same day it opened in theaters, the suit claims the hybrid method cost Johansson potential compensation tied to the film's box office performance.
Johnson and his Seven Bucks Productions "have no intention of battling Disney for any anticipated loss of dollars" from the day-and-date release of Jungle Cruise, according to a report from Deadline. In May, after Disney announced Jungle Cruise would be its fifth film to set sail on Premier Access on the same day it opens in theaters, Deadline reported Disney approached the filmmakers with options to move forward with a simultaneous release.
According to Johansson's lawsuit:
First, Disney wanted to lure the picture's audience away from movie theaters and towards its owned streaming service, where it could keep the revenues for itself while simultaneously growing the Disney+ subscriber base, a proven way to boost Disney's stock price. Second, Disney wanted to substantially devalue Ms. Johansson's agreement and thereby enrich itself. 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. Unlike numerous other movie studios, however—including Warner Brothers who, on information and belief, settled with its talent on films such as Wonder Woman  after it released those films "day-and-date" to its streaming service HBO Max last year—Disney and Marvel largely ignored Ms. Johansson, essentially forcing her to file this action.
Disney's live-action Mulan, Walt Disney Animation Studios' animated Raya and the Last Dragon, live-action Emma Stone vehicle Cruella, and Black Widow are the four films to release via Premier Access before Jungle Cruise. A $29.99 fee unlocks unlimited access to the film for three months, at which point the title joins the Disney+ library at no cost to subscribers who chose to wait.
"As Ms. Johansson, Disney, Marvel, and most everyone else in Hollywood knows, a 'theatrical release' is a release that is exclusive to movie theatres. Disney was well aware of this promise, but nonetheless directed Marvel to violate its pledge and instead release the picture on the Disney+ streaming service the very same day it was released in movie theatres," reads an excerpt from Johansson's lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday.
In its response issued Thursday, Disney said there is "no merit" to the "sad and distressing" filing. Disney "fully complied with Ms. Johansson's contract," a company spokesperson said in a statement, adding "the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date."
After Disney's statement on Thursday called Johansson's lawsuit "especially sad and distressing" for its "callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic," Johansson's agent and CAA co-chairman Bryan Lourd fired back at Disney for "shamelessly and falsely accus[ing] Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic."
Including Johansson's $20 million salary in its press statement was an attempt by Disney to "weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman," Lourd said, adding: "This suit was filed as a result of Disney's decision to knowingly violate Scarlett's contract. They have very deliberately moved the revenue stream and profits to the Disney+ side of the company leaving artistic and financial partners out of their new equation. That's it, pure and simple."
Johnson and his camp at Seven Bucks might be satisfied with deals reached on Jungle Cruise, but former THR editor Matthew Belloni writes in his What I'm Hearing... newsletter that Johnson's co-star Emily Blunt might be the next actor to speak out after the film's opening weekend. According to Belloni, Stone is similarly "weighing her options" over Disney's decision to release Cruella in theaters and on Disney+ over the Memorial Day weekend.
In May, Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek said Disney was making Black Widow available via Premier Access on the same day it reaches theaters to "offer consumers more choice" as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact the box office and movie theaters around the globe.
Jungle Cruise is now playing in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access.1comments