Two Ana de Armas fans are suing Universal Studios after renting a movie in which the actress was featured in the trailer. After they didn’t see de Armas in the film, they filed a lawsuit back in January for the deceptive trailer which featured the actress. Earlier this week, a federal judge ruled that movie studios can be sued under false advertising laws if their trailers are deceptive, per Variety.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson issued a ruling in a case involving Yesterday, the 2019 film about a world without the Beatles. Universal sought to throw out the lawsuit, arguing that movie trailers are entitled to broad protection under the First Amendment. The studio’s lawyers argued that a trailer is an “artistic, expressive work” that tells a three-minute story conveying the theme of the movie, and should thus be considered “non-commercial” speech.
Judge Wilson rejected that argument, finding that a trailer is commercial speech and is subject to the California False Adverting Law and the state’s 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,” Wilson wrote. “At its core, a trailer is an advertisement designed to sell a movie by providing consumers with a preview of the movie.”
Universal’s lawyers argued that there have been plenty of movie trailers that feature clips not shown in the final film. They cited Jurassic Park (a Universal film), which had a trailer comprised entirely of footage that isn’t in the movie. Universal also argued that classifying trailers as “commercial speech” could open the door to endless lawsuits from dissatisfied movie watchers, who could make a subjective claim that a film did not live up to the expectations created by the trailer.
In response, the judge said that the false advertising law applies only when a “significant portion” of “reasonable consumers” could be misled. “The Court’s holding is limited to representations as to whether an actress or scene is in the movie, and nothing else,” the judge wrote, holding that based on the Yesterday trailer. The Knives Out actress was originally intended to appear as a love interest for Himesh Patel’s Jack Malik, but was cut because audiences didn’t like the idea of the character straying from his primary love interest Ellie Appleton (played by Lily James).
The fans, Conor Woulfe of Maryland and Peter Michael Rosza of San Diego County, California, each paid $3.99 to rent Yesterday on Amazon Prime. They are seeking at least $5 million as representatives of a class of movie customers. The case will now proceed to discovery and a motion for class certification.