Movie Studios Can Be Sued for Misleading Trailers: Federal Judge

All it took for the potentially historic ruling was two angry Ana de Armas stans.

Credit: Getty Photos

An incident that began with 2 dissatisfied stans of Ana de Armas has now become a major win in federal court — and one that could set a major precedent for film studios moving forward.

Last January, 2 men paid $3.99 each to rent the 2019 movie 'Yesterday' on Amazon Prime. The individuals claimed they purchased the film because one of their favorite stars, Ana de Armas, was featured in its trailer. However, De Armas’ character, initially envisioned as a secondary love interest for the main character, was removed from the film’s final cut.

The 2 plaintiffs, identified as Conor Woulfe and Peter Michael Rosza, are seeking $5 million in damages as representatives of a class of movie customers.

Universal sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, claiming that trailers are 'non-commercial speech' and protected under the First Amendment. But in his decision, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson allowed the case to proceed, saying in his ruling that trailers are commercial speech and thus beholden to both California’s False Advertising Law and the Unfair Competition Law.

'Universal is correct that trailers involve some creativity and editorial discretion, but this creativity does not outweigh the commercial nature of a trailer. At its core, a trailer is an advertisement designed to sell a movie by providing consumers with a preview of the movie,' Judge Wilson wrote.

An attorney for Universal had argued that '[u]nder Plaintiffs' reasoning, a trailer would be stripped of full First Amendment protection and subject to burdensome litigation anytime a viewer claimed to be disappointed with whether and how much of any person or scene they saw in the trailer was in the final film; with whether the movie fit into the kind of genre they claimed to expect; or any of an unlimited number of disappointments a viewer could claim' — all concerns Judge Wilson’s ruling seemingly accounts for in its narrowness.

'The Court’s holding is limited to representations as to whether an actress or scene is in the movie, and nothing else,' the decision read.