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Judge Rules That Movie Studios May Be Sued for False Trailers

Movie Studios

14 December 2022, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Schwerin: At the presentation of the film "The Mad King" at the state press conference in Schwerin Castle, actors Robert Kowalewski (l-r), Kai Helm, Karin Angele, Armin Tebben, director of the state parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Birgit Hesse (SPD), president of the state parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, actress JeJu Caron and producer Borsu Highson are ready for a photo with photos from the set. The film, produced by Filmstudio Lüneburg GmbH, was shot to a large extent in and around Schwerin Castle. Photo: Bernd Wüstneck/dpa (Photo by Bernd Wüstneck/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Ana de Armas’s appearance in a trailer for a film that doesn’t include her led to a lawsuit against Universal, which the court eventually dismissed.

According to Variety, two admirers of the actor who appeared in Blade Runner 2049 and No Time to Die filed a lawsuit against the company in January 2022, claiming that they had rented Yesterday after seeing de Armas in the trailer only to learn that she was not included in the finished product. Movie trailers are entitled to First Amendment protection as free speech. Thus Universal hoped to have the action dismissed.

A trailer is an “artistic, expressive work” that presents a three-minute story communicating the idea of the film, in the opinion of the studio’s attorneys.

It should be regarded as “non-commercial” communication. The California False Advertising Law and the state’s Unfair Competition Law apply to trailers as “commercial speech,” according to U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson, who rejected Universal’s defense.

Additionally, Universal attempted to support its position by citing previous instances from its past that did not result in legal repercussions, such as an old Jurassic Park teaser that contained multiple scenes cut from the final product. “Trailers certainly require some originality and editorial judgment, as Universal is correct, Wilson said before adding that “this creativity does not overshadow the commercial aspect of a trailer. A movie trailer is an advertisement created to promote a film by giving viewers a sneak peek.”

The judge also clarified the requirements in response to Universal’s concerns that labeling trailers as “commercial speech” may result in lawsuits from angry viewers making subjective claims against movies that didn’t live up to their advertisements’ expectations. The false advertising legislation comes into play only when a “substantial fraction” of “reasonable consumers” could be misled.

The world in Yesterday, a romantic comedy directed by Danny Boyle, is one where few people are aware of The Beatles’ existence or their music. De Armas is the male lead’s rival love interest in the movie. When test audiences discovered that her character hurt the main character, removed her scenes.

Even though her role in the first movie was a fan favorite and possibly her international breakout performance, de Armas isn’t in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Even so, she has kept busy, starring in the contentious Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde and the Netflix action picture The Gray Man. She is now preparing to take center stage in the John Wick spinoff Ballerina, which is now in production.

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