Disney are once again hitting back with a well-placed jab at Scarlet Johansson by attempting to force a confidential arbitration which Johansson’s lawyer says is just Disney “trying to hide its misconduct.”
Disney has filed a motion with the Los Angeles Superior Court to move the lawsuit to binding arbitration in New York, according to People.
According to the American Bar Association, arbitration is a process “where disputing parties agree that one or several individuals can make a decision about the dispute after receiving evidence and hearing arguments.”
This didn’t sit well with John Berlinski, Johansson’s lawyer. His statement condemned the company’s actions, “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.”
“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. Yet that is exactly what happened — and we look forward to presenting the overwhelming evidence that proves it.”
As we have reported previously, the lawsuit appeared as a result of Johansson and her legal team claiming that her contract was breached as it promised a traditional theatrical release but Disney released the film at the same time on Disney+. Johansson was promised a percentage of Black Widow’s box office returns but the release on Disney+ hampered that return.
Disney responded that there was no merit to the lawsuit and cited the difficulties of the pandemic as the reason for the simultaneous release. The company called Johansson’s lawsuit “sad and distressing.”
The Disney team has said in their recent filing, “In a futile effort to evade this unavoidable result (and generate publicity through a public filing), Periwinkle [Johansson’s team] excluded Marvel as a party to this lawsuit — substituting instead its parent company Disney under contract-interference theories. But longstanding principles do not permit such gamesmanship.”
“The contract does not mandate theatrical distribution — let alone require that any such distribution be exclusive. 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. After shifting the original May 2020 release date several times — including at Johansson’s request — the Picture ultimately debuted on July 9, 2021 on more than 30,000 screens.”
“Marvel discussed the hybrid-release-pattern decision with Johansson in spring 2021, as the parties were conferring regarding the Picture’s release date. 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.”
There will surely be more to come.