Disney Makes First Move in Scarlett Johansson’s Suit-Update

Disney is demanding that Scarlett Johansson’s suit over her Black Widow pay be moved to arbitration. The filings came near midnight on Friday evening in Los Angeles Superior Court. The company has also revealed that on Aug. 10, it initiated arbitration against her.

In her complaint, Johansson alleges her contract was breached when the superhero film was released on Disney+. The actress earns bonuses when Black Widow reaches certain box office performance markers and she accuses Disney of not having the film exclusively in theaters because it “saw the opportunity to promote its flagship subscription service.”

Importantly, the deal for Johansson’s services came with Marvel, not Disney. She’s alleging that Disney induced its subsidiary Marvel to breach the contract, but while Johansson isn’t directly suing Marvel, Disney’s attorneys Daniel Petrocelli and Leah Godeski tell the court that an arbitration provision in that contract between Johansson’s loan-out and Marvel applies anyway.

“The plain and expansive language of the arbitration agreement easily encompasses Periwinkle’s Complaint,” states a motion to compel arbitration. “In a futile effort to evade this unavoidable result (and generate publicity through a public filing), Periwinkle excluded Marvel as a party to this lawsuit––substituting instead its parent company Disney under contract-interference theories. But long-standing principles do not permit such gamesmanship.”

The move to push arbitration isn’t unexpected, and while Disney’s papers detail for the first time the exact language of the arbitration provision, the company’s lawyers also make points that are less legally important at this juncture but will certainly attract notice.

For example, Disney says that Black Widow was put on more than 9,000 screens in the U.S., allegedly satisfying its obligation the film screen on no less than 1,500 (again, Johansson asserts it had to be exclusive), and according to the latest filing, as of Aug. 15, Black Widow has grossed more than $367 million in worldwide box-office receipts and more than $125 million in streaming and download retail receipts.

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