Movie studios can be sued under false advertising laws if they release deceptive movie trailers, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson issued a ruling in a case involving “Yesterday,” the 2019 film about a world without the Beatles.
Two Ana de Armas fans filed a lawsuit in January, alleging that they had rented the movie after seeing de Armas in the trailer, only to discover that she was cut out of the final film.
Universal sought to throw out the lawsuit, arguing that movie trailers are entitled to broad protection under the First Amendment. The studio’s lawyers argued that a trailer is an “artistic, expressive work” that tells a three-minute story conveying the theme of the movie, and should thus be considered “non-commercial” speech.
But Wilson rejected that argument, finding that a trailer is commercial speech and is subject to the California False Adverting Law and the state’s Unfair Competition Law.Variety
Could you imagine being so upset about a scene from a trailer not making that final cut of the movie you’re watching that you get a federal judge to declare the trailer as false advertising? That’s an all-time weenie move by whoever filed this lawsuit.
It will be interesting to see how this case sets a precedent for trailers moving forward. On one hand, there is at least some validity to the false advertising angle. If a film is blatantly misleading their audience as to what the film is and who is in it, then there is a conversation to be had about that. However there is a lot of grey area here. Remember Godzilla with Bryan Cranston? Take a look at the trailer if you need a refresher:
That film came out in 2014, a.k.a. when Cranston was at the peek of his Breaking Bad fame. You know what the funny thing about that movie was? He dies in the first 20 minutes. Should I be able to sue Warner Brothers because I thought he was going to be the lead in a two-hour movie I paid $13.99 to see? Of course not. Obviously this example is different than cutting Ana de Armas out of Yesterday entirely but the idea is that trailers are just supposed to grow interest in the film.
Now is Yesterday went out of its way to include her in all their marketing material such as posters, TV spots, and had her doing press for the film that’s a totally different story. But trailers are often released months, sometimes years, before the final product is finished. Hell, deceiving people in trailers is a huge part of Marvel’s marketing techniques. In the case of Yesterday, the film released a trailer months before the release only for director Danny Boyle to elect to leave de Armas’ storyline on the cutting room floor. I don’t have all the case details in front of me but as someone who saw Yesterday in theaters I have absolutely no recollection of Ana de Armas being billed as a reason to go see the movie. This case puts artists in a tough spot because if you tie their hands to including every second of footage from the trailer in the film, the results could negatively affect the final product. Plus, trailers are a huge part of a film’s marketing campaign. This could pit directors against the studio’s marketing teams because if they know the movie isn’t finished then nobody will be willing to release a trailer for an unfinished product, potentially driving down interest in the film.
There’s also the idea that what if the tone of the film differs itself from the trailer? Remember Public Enemies with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale? Watch this:
That movie came out in 2009 and to this day I cite it as one of the best trailers I’ve ever seen. I also believe that Public Enemies was one of the most disappointing movies I’ve ever seen in my life. The trailer looks like a fast paced, shootouts galore, cat-and-mouse crime thriller with a cast of actors all in the prime of their careers from an acclaimed director. Anybody whose seen this film knows that it is a total slog of a love story and a great example of “all the best parts were in the trailer.” Would I have a case in federal court for thinking this was actually going to be a good movie?
But back to my original point. I hate the people who filed this lawsuit. Yesterday is a perfectly delightful film and to spend $3.99 to rent a film that came out three years ago only to see one actress and then to Karen your way to a federal judge is absurd. Now they might have ruined trailers forever.
I’m done yelling at clouds but you should watch Yesterday anyway just to stick it to the man.
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