Disney wants Scarlett Johansson case to be arbitrated

Entertainment

Los Angeles Times 21 August, 2021 - 05:33pm 28 views

Pushing for arbitration, Disney's lawyers update the movie's box office and streaming take, saying it has outgrossed some other Marvel films with an "impressive pandemic-era showing."

By Eriq Gardner

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 longstanding 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 (see here), 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.

Disney compares the Black Widow release to other films in the Marvel canon, saying that the opening weekend take was “more than that of many other Marvel Cinematic Universe films, including Thor: The Dark World; Ant-Man; Ant-Man and the Wasp; and Guardians of the Galaxy.”

“Notwithstanding the Picture’s impressive pandemic-era showing and the decision to credit Periwinkle with streaming and download receipts, Periwinkle was dissatisfied,” the motion continues.

Although probably not necessary at this juncture, the legal papers also take on Johansson’s contract theories and presentation of evidence including one where a Marvel lawyer once told her deal lawyer in writing, “We totally understand that Scarlett’s willingness to do the film and her whole deal is based on the premise that the film would be widely theatrically released like our other pictures.”

“While Periwinkle tries to call that unambiguous contract language into question by citing a pre-pandemic, 2019 e-mail by a Marvel executive the communication merely confirmed Marvel’s intent to stand by the contract’s ‘wide theatrical release’ provision –– which Marvel ultimately did, notwithstanding the dramatically changed circumstances of a 2020-2021 global pandemic.”

That, of course, is open to interpretation. The question at this juncture — a not-entirely-unimportant one that may influence the course of future disputes — is whether it will be a judge or arbitrator doing the interpreting.

John Berlinski, attorney for Johansson, comments on Disney’s move: “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.”

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Scarlett Johansson Slams “Misogynistic” Disney Response As Mouse House Tries To Move ‘Black Widow’ Suit Behind Closed Doors – Update

Yahoo Entertainment 21 August, 2021 - 08:20pm

“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,” said the Oscar nominee’s main lawyer John Berlinski today after the House of Mouse’s response to Johansson’s scathing profits lawsuit went public.

“Why is Disney so afraid of litigating this case in public?,” added the Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP attorney in what has become a Cuban Missile Crisis level war of words.

Whether or not Bryan Lourd and Johansson’s reps at CAA weigh in too is TBD, but clearly no one’s afraid of pushing the button(s) now.

PREVIOUSLY, 8:15 AM: The House of Mouse has tried to blunt the Black Widow’s bite, as expected.

In a witching hour filing last night, the Walt Disney Company took Scarlett Johansson to task for daring to make her financial dispute with them over Black Widow public. The Marvel parent company is demanding the whole thing go behind closed doors on the East Coast ASAP.

“Periwinkle 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,” says the motion filed in LA Superior Court on Friday by Disney’s outside lawyers Daniel Petrocelli, Leah Godesky and Tim Heafner of O’Melveny & Myers LLP against Johansson and her company (read it here).

“Whether Periwinkle’s claims against Disney fall within the scope of that agreement is not a close call: Periwinkle’s interference and inducement claims are premised on Periwinkle’s allegation that Marvel breached the contract’s requirement that any release of Black Widow include a ‘wide theatrical release’ on ‘no less than 1,500 screens,” the 23-page motion adds, taking a direct swipe at the obvious Achilles’ heel of the longtime Marvel star’s July 29 filed suit. “The plain and expansive language of the arbitration agreement easily encompasses Periwinkle’s Complaint.”

Then, in the kind of language that Petrocelli’s clients like to see and mirroring Disney’s initial response to Johansson’s July 29 legal action, the O’Melveny & Myers attorneys get a little rough.

“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,” they lash out. “But longstanding principles do not permit such gamesmanship.”

Disney want an October 15 hearing in DTLA on the arbitration matter. The company’s formal response also reveals that they and subsidiary Marvel “on August 10, 2021, Marvel and Disney served on Periwinkle a demand for confidential arbitration in New York.” Johansson’s Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP team has not responded to that demand yet, according to Disney.

On the other hand, Disney did respond last night officially to Johansson and her lawyers’ interpretation of her contract with Marvel. Specifically, having seen execs Bob Iger and Bob Chapek’s payouts out in the actor’s legal action, the company and its hired muscle center on what putting the repeatedly pandemic delayed Black Widow on streamer Disney+ as well as on the big screen when the Cate Shortland directed film was finally released on July 9.

Paid $20 million upfront (as Disney harshly reveled back on July 29) for Black Widow, Johansson has claimed she was promised “a release that is exclusive to movie theatres.”

After Chapek himself took a dig at Johnasson’s suit in the company’s latest earnings call on August 12, Disney now officially and firmly say their one-time, long-time star has it wrong.

“Although Marvel and Disney share Periwinkle’s frustration with the challenges associated with releasing films during an ever-shifting public-health crisis, Periwinkle’s claims that Marvel breached the Agreement and Disney induced that breach or otherwise interfered with the Agreement have no merit,” last night’s motion states. “There is nothing in the Agreement requiring that a ‘wide theatrical release’ also be an ‘exclusive’ theatrical release.”

“The contract does not mandate theatrical distribution––let alone require that any such distribution be exclusive,” it goes on to say. “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.”

And there was apparently more cash on offering.

In fact, as both sides attempt to craft the official record, Disney emphasis that even though Johansson’s suit says the actor who has portrayed super spy Natasha Romanoff for over a decade said she was pretty much blindsided by the decision to go for a multi-platform release because of the pandemic, they were straight up with her and her CAA reps.

“Marvel discussed the hybrid-release-pattern decision with Johansson in spring 2021, as the parties were conferring regarding the Picture’s release date,” they say in the August 20 filing. “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.”

To solidify that point, Disney cracked open the door a bit on how much Black Widow has actually made – specifically on Disney+, where subscribers could gain “premium access” on release day for an extra $30.

“As of August 15, 2021, the Picture has grossed more than $367 million in worldwide box-office receipts and more than $125 million in streaming and download retail receipts.”

For those of you who love a good horse race and/or math, Disney have added Black Widow‘s opening weekend domestic haul of just under $80 million to its admittedly very strong $55 million opening weekend on Disney+ for a grand US-only total of $135 million. Or, as they say “more than that of many other Marvel Cinematic Universe films, including Thor: The Dark World; Ant-Man; Ant-Man and the Wasp; and Guardians of the Galaxy” made in their respective opening days.

A factoid you can expect to hear over and over as long as this matter remains in the public eye, for however long that is.

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Black Widow to release in India on this date on Disney Plus Hotstar

The Indian Express 21 August, 2021 - 08:20pm

Marvel Studios has announced the release date of Black Widow in India. The Scarlett Johansson-starrer movie will debut on Disney Plus Hotstar on September 3.

Based on the only female superhero in the old guard of the Avengers, the film is directed by Cate Shortland. Since Natasha Romanoff or Black Widow is now deceased after her sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame, this film is set in the past. Specifically, it is set after the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War in which she finds herself on the run from the law thanks to her aid to Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes.

Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, and Rachel Weisz also star in Black Widow. Eric Pearson has penned the script.

Black Widow released mostly positive reviews. It scored 80 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus read, “Black Widow’s deeper themes are drowned out in all the action, but it remains a solidly entertaining standalone adventure that’s rounded out by a stellar supporting cast.”

Interestingly September 3 is also the release date of Marvel’s own Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which will bow exclusively in theatres in four languages: English, Hindi, Telugu, and Kannada.

Scarlett Johansson was recently in news after she sued Disney, the parent company of Marvel Studios, for the simultaneous (both theatre and Disney Plus) release model for Black Widow. The lawsuit claimed Scarlett was deprived of box office bonuses as hybrid release negatively affected the box office performance of the movie.

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Scarlett Johansson Accuses Disney of ‘Trying to Hide Its Misconduct’ With ‘Black Widow’ Arbitration Demand

Yahoo Entertainment 21 August, 2021 - 08:20pm

“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,” Johansson’s attorney John Berlinski said in a statement provided to TheWrap Saturday, in response to Disney’s Friday motion to compel 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.”

A representative for Disney did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment Saturday.

Johansson’s lawsuit, which was filed July 29, claims her contract was worded around an exclusive theatrical release for “Black Widow” — which was released simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access on July 9 — and her compensation included significant bonuses based on the film’s box office grosses that insiders told the Wall Street Journal could add up to $50 million.

(Per Disney’s Friday 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.”)

In Disney’s initial response, the company said the lawsuit had “no merit whatsoever” and called Johansson “callous” for asking for more than her upfront salary of $20 million.

According to a motion to move Johansson’s lawsuit to arbitration filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court by Disney’s attorneys on Friday, Johansson (referred to by her loan-out company’s name, Perwinkle, in the documents) “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.”

Per the filing, “Whether Periwinkle’s claims against Disney fall within the scope of that agreement is not a close call: Periwinkle’s interference and inducement claims are premised on Periwinkle’s allegation that Marvel breached the contract’s requirement that any release of ‘Black Widow’ include a ‘wide theatrical release’ on ‘no less than 1,500 screens. The plain and expansive language of the arbitration agreement easily encompasses Periwinkle’s Complaint.”

Disney says that, “in a futile effort to evade this unavoidable result (and generate publicity through a public filing), Perwinkle 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.”

According to the document, Johansson’s “two causes of action are entirely dependent on its untenable claim that Marvel breached” its contract with the actress “by releasing ‘Black Widow’ simultaneously in theaters and on Premier Access on Disney+. The contract does not mandate theatrical distribution — let alone require that any such distribution be exclusive.”

Disney’s attorneys state that Johansson’s “claim that Marvel breached the requirement that ‘Black Widow’ be released on ‘no less than 1,500 screens’ by releasing it on more than 30,000 screens is thus as indefensible as it sounds, as Disney and Marvel will demonstrate in arbitration.”

Read original story Scarlett Johansson Accuses Disney of ‘Trying to Hide Its Misconduct’ With ‘Black Widow’ Arbitration Demand At TheWrap

Disney has filed a motion to force Scarlett Johansson into a private arbitration to address whether she is owed millions from the hybrid release of “Black Widow.” In the motion, attorney Daniel Petrocelli also argues that Disney lived up to its obligation to give the film a “wide theatrical” release, but that nothing in the […]

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UPDATE, 8:44 AM: As anyone who has seen a Marvel movie or read the comics knows, the Black Widow moves fast and deadly – – and that’s exactly what Scarlett Johansson did this morning. “After initially responding to this litigation with a misogynistic attack against Scarlett Johansson, Disney is now, predictably, trying to hide its […]

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Disney pushes for private arbitration in Scarlett Johansson's 'Black Widow' lawsuit

USA TODAY 21 August, 2021 - 05:31pm

In a motion filed Friday in LA, Disney is seeking to settle its pay dispute with 'Black Widow' star Scarlett Johansson privately through arbitration.

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"Black Widow" star Scarlett Johansson has sued Disney for breach of contract due to the film's Disney+ streaming release. USA TODAY

Disney has filed a motion to settle a lawsuit brought by "Black Widow" star Scarlett Johansson behind closed doors. 

The motion was filed to Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday afternoon by Disney attorney Daniel Petrocelli. In documents obtained by USA TODAY, Petrocelli argued that the contract between Disney and Periwinkle Entertainment Inc., the company representing Johansson, included an agreement to settle any disputes through "binding arbitration" in New York City. 

Disney's request for arbitration is the company's first filing in the case since Johansson filed suit on July 29, alleging her contract with Marvel was breached when "Black Widow" was released on the Disney+ streaming service at the same time as in theaters. 

In Friday's filing, Disney argued the complaint put forth by Johansson and Periwinkle Entertainment has "no merit." 

"There is nothing in the Agreement requiring that a 'wide theatrical release' also be an 'exclusive' theatrical release," Petrocelli wrote. 

Petrocelli cited box office numbers, noting that the combined opening weekend revenue from ticket sales in theaters and Disney + Premiere Access receipts totaled more than $135 million. That surpassed other Marvel Cinematic Universe films that were released before the pandemic, including "Thor: The Dark World,""Ant-Man and the Wasp" and "Guardians of the Galaxy," Petrocelli wrote. 

"Disney is now, predictably, trying to hide its misconduct in a confidential arbitration," Johansson's attorney John Berlinski told USA TODAY in a statement. "Why is Disney so afraid of litigating this case in public?"

Berlinski and his team "look forward" to presenting evidence to prove Disney's alleged wrongdoing, he said. 

After Johansson filed her complaint, a statement from Disney called the suit "especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Bryan Lourd, co-chairman of the Creative Artists Agency and Johansson’s agent, issued a response to Disney, saying the company "shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic." The response was "a direct attack on her character," Lourd said. 

The case's first hearing is scheduled for Oct. 15 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

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Scarlett Johansson's Lawyer Says Disney Is 'Trying to Hide Its Misconduct' by Seeking Arbitration

PEOPLE 21 August, 2021 - 04:44pm

The company filed a motion with the Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday evening to move the lawsuit to binding arbitration in New York, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.

Arbitration is a confidential process "where disputing parties agree that one or several individuals can make a decision about the dispute after receiving evidence and hearing arguments," per the American Bar Association.

In response to Friday's filing, Johansson's attorney John Berlinski said in a statement, "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?" he continued. "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." 

RELATED: Disney CEO Defends Disney+ Movie Releases amid Scarlett Johansson Lawsuit: 'We Value Flexibility'

In the lawsuit obtained by PEOPLE in July, Johansson said her Black Widow contract with Disney's Marvel Entertainment was for a guaranteed exclusive movie-theater release — with the bulk of her salary depending in large part on the film's box-office performance.

"Disney intentionally induced Marvel's breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel," the lawsuit read.

Disney's latest filing disputes that claim and questions Johansson's Periwinkle Entertainment Inc. for deciding not to name Marvel as a defendant in the lawsuit.

"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 longstanding principles do not permit such gamesmanship," Disney said in the filing.

The defendant also stated, "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."

RELATED: Producer Jason Blum Shows Support for 'Really Brave' Scarlett Johansson amid Black Widow Lawsuit

The company also made a pointed remark that Black Widow's box-office opening weekend grossed more than $135 million, noting it was "more than that of many other Marvel Cinematic Universe films, including Thor: The Dark World; Ant-Man; Ant-Man and the Wasp; and Guardians of the Galaxy."

Opening the curtain behind the film's success, Disney said that as of Aug. 15, the movie "grossed more than $367 million in worldwide box-office receipts and more than $125 million in streaming and download retail receipts."

"Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson's contract and furthermore, 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," the statement continued.

RELATED: Time's Up, Other Groups Accuse Disney of 'Gendered' Attack on Scarlett Johansson amid Lawsuit

Disney faced backlash from Johansson's agent Bryan Lourd as well as multiple women's groups in Hollywood, such as Time's Up, ReFrame and Women in Film, who called the company's response to the actress's lawsuit "a gendered character attack." 

In a statement obtained by PEOPLE at the time, Berlinski also said, "It's no secret that Disney is releasing films like Black Widow directly onto Disney+ to increase subscribers and thereby boost the company's stock price — and that it's hiding behind COVID-19 as a pretext to do so. But ignoring the contracts of the artists responsible for the success of its films in furtherance of this short-sighted strategy violates their rights and we look forward to proving as much in court."

Two weeks later, Disney CEO Bob Chapek stated that he supports the company's hybrid movie release model.

During an earnings call on Aug. 12, Chapek spoke about the dual releases of films in movie theaters and on Disney+, telling Wall Street analysts, "We value flexibility in being able to make last-minute calls," according to Deadline.

Chapek, who did not mention Johansson or Black Widow by name, also said, "Certainly when we planned we didn't anticipate the resurgence of COVID."

He added that he and former CEO Bob Iger, who now serves as chairman of the board at Disney, "determined" the dual release plan for several of this year's movies "was the right strategy to enable us to reach the broadest possible audience." 

Chapek also reiterated that "distribution decisions are made on a film-by-film basis. We will continue to utilize all options going forward."

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Scarlett Johansson’s lawyer RESPONDS to Disney over the latter’s move to avoid trial in Black Widow lawsuit

PINKVILLA 21 August, 2021 - 02:17pm

According to Just Jared, the financial dispute arose when she sued the studio claiming that she could earn better profits with the movie’s theatrical release which she has to miss out on due to the movie’s release on both the streaming platform Disney+ and in theatres. However, as per Deadline, via Just Jared, Disney had responded to the lawsuit appealing the case shall move into arbitration. As per Disney’s lawyers, it was previously 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.” Hence, they are moving forward with the step of arbitration.

However, as per Just Jared, in a very recent statement to Deadline, Johansson’s lawyer John Berlinski has stated that the studio is “predictably trying to hide its misconduct in a confidential arbitration”, after “initially responding to this litigation with a misogynistic attack against Scarlett Johansson.” He continued the statement by asking questions to Disney over “Marvel’s promises to give Black Widow a typical theatrical release ‘like it’s other films’”. He noted that the promise “had everything to do with guaranteeing that Disney wouldn’t cannibalize box office receipts in order to boost Disney+ subscriptions.”

In the later part of the statement, Berlinski said Scarlett’s team looks forward to “presenting the overwhelming evidence” that will support their case.

Scarlett Johansson’s lawyer RESPONDS to Disney over the latter’s move to avoid trial in Black Widow lawsuit

Just Jared 21 August, 2021 - 02:17pm

According to Just Jared, the financial dispute arose when she sued the studio claiming that she could earn better profits with the movie’s theatrical release which she has to miss out on due to the movie’s release on both the streaming platform Disney+ and in theatres. However, as per Deadline, via Just Jared, Disney had responded to the lawsuit appealing the case shall move into arbitration. As per Disney’s lawyers, it was previously 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.” Hence, they are moving forward with the step of arbitration.

However, as per Just Jared, in a very recent statement to Deadline, Johansson’s lawyer John Berlinski has stated that the studio is “predictably trying to hide its misconduct in a confidential arbitration”, after “initially responding to this litigation with a misogynistic attack against Scarlett Johansson.” He continued the statement by asking questions to Disney over “Marvel’s promises to give Black Widow a typical theatrical release ‘like it’s other films’”. He noted that the promise “had everything to do with guaranteeing that Disney wouldn’t cannibalize box office receipts in order to boost Disney+ subscriptions.”

In the later part of the statement, Berlinski said Scarlett’s team looks forward to “presenting the overwhelming evidence” that will support their case.

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