One of the production companies of The Matrix Resurrections, Village Roadshow, said the studio Warner Bros. for release in streaming the same day the film on HBO Max.
Warner Bros. called the lawsuit “a frivolous attempt by Village Roadshow to avoid its contractual commitment to participate in the arbitration,” which the company said began last week. “We have no doubt that this case will be resolved in our favor,” WB added.
The lawsuit, reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal, underscores continued friction in Hollywood as studios try to find a new normal for movie releases after nearly two years of the pandemic. Before COVID-19, rigid release cycles for new movies had been immutable for decades, but coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions have forced a flurry of experimentation on how, when and where you can watch new movies. While the new options offered consumers unprecedented choice, they often clashed with the pay standards of stars, filmmakers and production companies.
Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson, for example, sued Disney last year over the company’s decision to release the Marvel blockbuster on its Disney Plus streaming service simultaneously with its theatrical release. The two parties then settled.
Like Johansson, Village Roadshow is suing Warner Bros. for breach of contract. “WB’s sole purpose in advancing the release date of ‘The Matrix Resurrections’ was to create a desperately needed wave of year-end HBO Max premium subscriptions from what it knew to be a blockbuster movie, even though she knew full well that it would decimate the film’s box office revenue and deprive Village Roadshow of any economic benefit that WB and its affiliates would enjoy,” the lawsuit stated, according to the WSJ report.
HBO Max became synonymous with the practice of streaming new movies the same day they hit theaters last year, as WarnerMedia released the entire Warner Bros. studio slate of 2021 movies. on Max this way. The Matrix sequel was the last film to get this treatment last year, and Warner Bros. largely giving its films a period of theatrical exclusivity this year.
When WarnerMedia announced plans in late 2020 to stream all WB movies on HBO Max at no additional cost, it sparked a backlash in Hollywood from furious filmmakers and stars. WarnerMedia reportedly paid talent between $200 million and $300 million to assuage these irritations.