Village Roadshow alleged that Warner Bros. undercut the theatrical release of the fourth “Matrix” film by driving subscribers to HBO Max.
Per Variety, “the suit alleges that Warner Bros. unilaterally decided to release the latest ‘Matrix’ installment simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, with no notice to Village Roadshow.”
The production company has a history of co-financing with the Warner Bros. studio across the “Matrix” trilogy as a whole, “Joker,” and the “Oceans” film series.
“The Matrix Resurrections” grossed approximately $148 million at the box office to date. Variety reported that the lawsuit “accuses Warner Bros. of deliberately harming the film’s box office to prop up HBO Max, at the expense of the future viability of the franchise.”
The lawsuit alleged that “WB’s strategy not only ensured that ‘The Matrix Resurrections’ would be a bust at the box office, but it also inflicted serious harm to the entire ‘Matrix’ franchise. There can be no doubt that the abysmal theatrical box office sales figures from ‘The Matrix Resurrections’ dilute the value of this tentpole franchise as a film’s lack of profitability generally prevents studios from investing in additional sequels and derivative films in the near term.”
In a statement Warner Bros. shared, “This is a frivolous attempt by Village Roadshow to avoid their contractual commitment to participate in the arbitration that we commenced against them last week. We have no doubt that this case will be resolved in our favor.”
“Matrix” producer James McTeigue previously told Collider that there are currently no plans for a “Resurrections” follow-up. “We’ve got no sequel in mind. We’ve got no further trilogy,” McTeigue stated. “But I think the film also works where it’s really open to audience interpretation, like what happened in those 60 years before they fished Neo out again, or Thomas Anderson to Neo. When Neo and Trinity are there at the end, and they’re talking with the analyst, what do they actually mean that they’re going to change? So I think that it’s out there, but it’s not in our wheelhouse at the moment.”
“The Matrix Resurrections” opened in theaters and on HBO Max on December 22. HBO Max subscribers were able to stream the film through January 21.
Village Roadshow’s lawsuit against HBO Max additionally stated that due to the poor box office results, Village Roadshow cannot make its contractually obligated payment to Warner Bros., and alleged that WB has also been “seeking to deprive the company of its rights to other films, including ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘Edge of Tomorrow.'”
The latest “Matrix” film was greenlit by Warner Bros. with or without filmmakers Lily or Lana Wachowski attached.
“There’s always the financial part of it. There’s always the filmmakers who want to make the films, and there’s always the studios or the streamers who have the money to facilitate that,” producer McTeigue said. “So yeah. It’s always a business equation as much as it is a creative equation.”
Lana Wachowski did return to write and direct “The Matrix Resurrections.”
IndieWire film critic David Ehrlich wrote in his review of the film, “At a time when mega-budget franchise movies can only be about themselves, Lana Wachowski has made one that pushes beyond the dopamine hit of cheap nostalgia and dares to dream up a future where mainstream films might inspire us to re-imagine what’s possible instead of just asking us to clap at the sight of history repeating itself.”
Scarlett Johansson similarly sued in July 2021 over the Disney+ release of Marvel superhero film “Black Widow.” As reported by The Washington Post, Johansson alleged that Disney breached her contract by releasing the film day and date in theaters and on the Disney+ streaming service. Johansson also served as an executive producer on the film, stating her agreement with Disney-owned Marvel Entertainment guaranteed a theatrical release, with her salary based largely on box office returns.
“Why would Disney forgo hundreds of millions of dollars in box office receipts by releasing the Picture in theaters at a time when it knew the theatrical market was ‘weak,’ rather than waiting a few months for that market to recover?” the lawsuit stated, via The Hollywood Reporter. “On information and belief, the decision to do so was made at least in part because Disney saw the opportunity to promote its flagship subscription service using the Picture and Ms. Johansson, thereby attracting new paying monthly subscribers, retaining existing ones, and establishing Disney+ as a must-have service in an increasingly competitive marketplace.”
Johansson settled the breach of contract lawsuit against Disney in September 2021. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
At the time, WarnerMedia reportedly paid stars like Gal Gadot and Will Smith as much as $200 million in reaction to the day-and-date HBO Max releases for Warner Bros. films like “Wonder Woman 1984” and “King Richard.”