Village Roadshow filed suit last week against Warner Bros. in a conflict over WB’s decision to release THE MATRIX: RESURRECTIONS simultaneously to theatres and online through the company’s in-house HBO MAX streaming service. Village Roadshow and Warner Bros. have been long-time collaborators in developing blockbuster features, including THE JOKER, AMERICAN SNIPER, and THE MATRIX franchise films. The rationale behind the lawsuit is that Warner Bros.’ decision to release THE MATRIX: RESURRECTIONS to theatres and online day & date had the effect of “decimating the film’s box office revenue and depriving Village Roadshow of any economic upside that WB and its affiliates would enjoy.” The suit pointed to the increase in piracy and bootlegging of the release due to the day & date release, which lowered revenue from theatrical ticket sales.
It is déjà vu all over again for industry watchers, with many of Village Roadshow’s arguments being used (successfully) by Scarlett Johansson in her lawsuit against Disney for damages resulting from Disney’s day & date release of BLACK WIDOW. In both cases, profits to the parties were linked to box office success, which was limited due to these movies not having an exclusive theatrical release. Johansson wound up settling with Disney for an undisclosed amount. For its part, Warner Bros. has been mostly able to head off legal complications by negotiating with talent pre-emptively on increases in payout after the company decided to release its entire slate of films day & date on HBO Max.
Village Roadshow’s lawsuit also calls out Warner Bros. for developing future projects on its own, which are based on content and characters that the two companies had developed together, citing a series that Warner Bros. is planning for HBO Max based on the successful 2014 sci-fi action feature EDGE OF TOMORROW”.