One of the co-producers of the last part of the saga Matrix has filed a complaint for breach of contract against Warner Bros. studios, which he accuses of having broadcast the film in streaming at the same time as its theatrical release.
The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles by the Village Roadshow Entertainment group is the latest episode in a controversy between film professionals, who derive a large part of their income from movie tickets, and entertainment giants, who are desperate to develop their video-on-demand platforms to appeal to financial markets and shareholders.
Last year, Marvel movie star Scarlett Johansson publicly took on Disney for choosing to come out Black Widow simultaneously in cinemas and on Disney+. The actress was contractually entitled to a percentage of the box office receipts and estimated in a complaint to have suffered a shortfall of several million dollars. The two parties have since reached an amicable agreement.
While the cinema industry was bearing the brunt of the health restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic, WarnerMedia, parent company of Warner Bros. studios, had decided to broadcast all 2021 releases on its HBO Max platform. They had notably drawn the wrath of the director of DunesDenis Villeneuvewho felt that this risked “to kill” his film and constituted “a threat to cinema in general”.
The complaint filed claims that the release of Matrix Resurrections on HBO Max was solely intended to boost that service’s subscriptions before the end of the year, according to the wall street journal. And that “despite the fact that this would decimate the film’s box office receipts and deprive Village Roadshow of the same economic spinoffs as Warner Bros and its affiliates”accuses the complaint.
Matrix Resurrections is the fourth part of the science fiction saga starring Keanu Reeves. By early February, it had raked in around $37 million in the United States and Canada, compared to $172 million at the time for the first Matrix.