Update, February 14: Village Roadshow filed an additional claim citing that Warner Bros. is icing out the production company.
“WB’s admission leaves no doubt that its coercive conduct is a continuing, thinly-veiled effort to eliminate Village Roadshow’s rights going forward so that it can keep for itself valuable derivative rights to tent pole films, and use those films (and future creative derivative products arising from those films) to steer would-be theatergoers to HBO Max, thereby gaining billions in enterprise value,” states the Village Roadshow filing.
Village Roadshow also issued a statement via law firm Kirkland & Ellis that called for a preliminary injunction by March 7.
Diana Torres, representing Village Roadshow, responded that “WB’s statement is not only untrue, it seeks to deflect attention from the core issues.”
“Village Roadshow paid WB $4.5 billion to produce and distribute 91 films,” Torres said in a statement, via The Hollywood Reporter. “The complaint details a pattern of calculated conduct by WB designed to eviscerate Village Roadshow’s rights to the derivative works from those films. As set forth in our ex parte application filed this morning, WB is in active development of several of those derivative works.”
Those projects namely include an “Edge of Tomorrow” television series, “Sherlock Holmes” sequels, “Ready Player One” films, an “Ocean’s” series, and “I Am Legend” prequels, as well as the “Matrix Resurrections” release.
Published February 14: Warner Bros. has publicly responded to the lawsuit from Village Roadshow over the release of “The Matrix Resurrections” on streaming platform HBO Max, one week after the suit was filed.
Village Roadshow alleged the day-and-date release of the fourth “Matrix” film affected box office returns.
Variety reported February 7 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.”
Now, Warner Bros. has issued a statement to Deadline in response.
“Village’s actions have been duplicitous and this dispute is equally contrived,” the statement reads. “Village was happy to have their name on the credits of the film, traveled to the world premiere in San Francisco, and held themselves out to the media as producers on the film. But they have now reneged on their contractual obligation to pay their share of the cost of the film.
“It is notable that throughout 2021, we reached mutually acceptable agreements on all films in the 2021 slate to provide additional compensation to Talent and our partners in light of our ‘day and date’ release strategy during the Covid-19 Pandemic. The only exception was Village, which refused to honor its commitment to pay their share of production costs, rejecting the opportunity we offered to de-risk them from any financial underperformance.
“Instead, Village wanted to enjoy the benefit of publicly holding themselves out as co-owners and producers while preserving a ‘free look’ at the ultimate outcome of the film performance without any financial investment on their part. This is not how we conduct business, certainly not with trusted partners.”
Warner Bros has not yet filed any formal response to Village Roadshow’s complaint, but added that the lawsuit was 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.”
“The Matrix Resurrections” opened in theaters and on HBO Max December 22. HBO Max subscribers were able to stream the film through January 21. “The Matrix Resurrections” has grossed approximately $148 million at the box office to date.