Decision was prompted by a lawsuit over Universal Pictures putting actress Ana de Armas in a trailer after cutting her from a film.
Movie trailers are “commercial speech” designed to “sell a movie” and should thus correctly reflect its content, California US district judge Stephen Wilson ruled earlier this week, as he greenlighted a class action suit against Universal Pictures.
The case involves two plaintiffs who decided to sue Universal Pictures, having rented a movie after seeing what they would later call a misleading trailer. The film in question, ‘Yesterday’ (2019), had a trailer featuring actress Ana de Armas, who’d actually been cut from the movie itself, much to the dismay of her fans Conor Woulfe and Peter Michael Rosza.
Woulfe and Rosza, who’d each paid $3.99 to rent ‘Yesterday’ on Amazon Prime, are now seeking at least $5 million from Universal on behalf of all disappointed fans. The two argued they would have never rented the movie had they known de Armas did not feature in it in the first place.
“Such consumers were not provided with any value for their rental or purchase” since they “did not receive a movie with any appearance of Ana de Armas at all,” the suit said. Wilson ruled that their legal action can go ahead.
“Universal is correct that trailers involve some creativity and editorial discretion, but this creativity does not outweigh the commercial nature of a trailer,” he said in his ruling, adding that “at its core, a trailer is an advertisement designed to sell a movie by providing consumers with a preview of the movie.”
Universal warned that classifying trailers as commercial speech would let disappointed movie fans file lawsuits, arguing that a film failed to meet the expectations created by a trailer.
The judge replied that a studio can only be sued for false advertising if a “significant portion” of “reasonable consumers” might be misled. He particularly explained that it could be the case if an actor or a scene featured in a trailer did not appear in the film.
The case will now get a further hearing in April.