Two Ana de Armas fans may have the opportunity to take legal action against movie studios over deceptive trailers, after a US District Judge ruled that studios can be sued under false advertising laws.
Conour Wolfe and Peter Michael Rosza filed a lawsuit against Universal Pictures in January, alleging that they paid $3.99 each to rent the studio’s 2019 romance musical “Yesterday” on Amazon Prime, only to find out that de Armas had been cut from the final film.
They had been drawn to the film by seeing de Armas in the trailer.
Universal Pictures sought to have the case dismissed, claiming that trailers are entitled to free speech protection under the First Amendment.
The studio argued that trailers are “artistic, expressive works” used to convey the themes of a movie and should therefore be considered “non-commercial” speech.
However, Judge Stephen Wilson denied this argument, instead ruling that trailers are commercial speech and subject to California’s False Advertising Law and 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 legal team also argued that trailers have long included footage that doesn’t appear in the final cut of a film, citing the trailer for “Jurassic Park” as an example of this.
The studio raised the possibility that classifying trailers as “commercial speech” could lead to “burdensome litigation” any time a viewer was disappointed with the final film, whether due to the appearance or absence of a particular actor or scene, or any other number of reasons.
In response to this concern, the judge stated that the false advertising law would only apply 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,” Wilson wrote.
He added that it was plausible that viewers would expect de Armas to have a significant role in the film, based on the trailer for “Yesterday.”
De Armas was originally intended to play a love interest for the main character, Jack, played by Himesh Patel.
However, screenwriter Richard Curtis explained that she was ultimately cut from the film because audiences didn’t respond well to Jack straying from his primary love interest, played by Lily James.
De Armas’ character was supposed to appear on James Corden’s talk show, where Jack would serenade her with the Beatles song “Something.”
Wolfe and Rosza are seeking at least $5 million in damages and will represent a class of moviegoers.
The case will now move on to the discovery phase and a motion to classify it as a class-action lawsuit.