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Forums - Movies & TV - Judge rules studios can be sued for false advertising with deceptive trailers


The trailer for Danny Boyle’s Yesterday — a film where a musician wakes up in a world where no one remembers the Beatles — featured an appearance from actress Ana de Armas. The musician, played by Himesh Patel, serenades her with a Beatles song (that everyone thinks he wrote) during an appearance on The Late Late Show With James Corden.

That’s the trailer. But when the film came out, de Armas did not appear in the movie; her role had been cut out during post-production. (Supposedly, she was removed because test audiences did not want the Patel character to romance de Armas and preferred he remain faithful to Lily James’ character, who he knew before he became a world-famous, Beatles-music-stealing star.)

This sort of thing sometimes happens; movies get changed in editing. But some Ana de Armas fans were angry enough that they paid to see the film without realizing she had been removed that they sued Yesterday’s distributor, Universal. And this week, a judge said their case could proceed on the grounds that a trailer like this one may legally qualify as false advertising.

First of all, here is the trailer in question, which does indeed include several shots of de Armas.

According to Variety, Judge Stephen Wilson refused to throw out the suit, and found that movie trailers are subject to a California False Advertising Law, writing:

Universal is correct that trailers involve some creativity and editorial discretion, but this creativity does not outweigh the commercial nature of a trailer ... At its core, a trailer is an advertisement designed to sell a movie by providing consumers with a preview of the movie.

The case will now move forward, and could prove costly not just for Universal but for other studios if it is eventually found in the favor of the plaintiffs. Trailers often sell potential customers a version of a film that is not strictly accurate or true. They might make something seem like more of a comedy when it’s in fact a darker and sadder drama, because executives think that makes the film more commercial. Or they might make a very famous actor who dies in the first 20 minutes look like they have a much more substantial role, to draw in their fans. And they do sometimes include appearances from actors, like in this Yesterday case, whose roles then get heavily reduced or removed entirely during the editing process.

If movie producers can be held liable for failing to deliver what their trailers promise, that might have major implications for how trailers are made in the future. But for now, the case is simply moving forward into another stage. You might just call this part a sneak preview of coming attractions.

On that note, Universal/Blumhouse should consider themselves lucky I caught Halloween Ends for free on Peacock instead of going to the theater for this. Otherwise, I'd sue them for their lying ass trailer where they basically told me we'd be getting a grand finale of "Laurie v. Michael for the last time, for realzies this time" and instead, we ended up following this Corey guy for like 85% of the film. That's fucking bullshit, man, that's not the movie they advertised!

But on a serious note, this is fucking bullshit and petty AF. Trailers are out before the movie is finished and there are a ton of things studios can opt not to show in them (or do show that gets cut) for any number of reasons that could come across as misleading when they see the finished product.

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Headline is a bit click-baity from variety or whoever.

What the judge has essentially decided is that, in theory, a trailer could contain false advertising. I would imagine there was a motion to dismiss based on the argument that the trailer is a creative work entitled to first amendment protection, and the judge rejected that argument. The judge held that it is commercial speech, and if false commercial speech is provided very limited protection.

There's a far bridge to cross from there to a movie trailer actually being found to consist of false advertisement in a case like this. From there, (generally speaking I don't know the nuances of Chicago law), a person, or more likely a group of people, would have to prove that the trailer was the primary, or at least a significant, factor in them deciding to see the movie, that it was reasonable for them to rely on the trailer, that the specific element in the trailer induced them to see the movie, without that element the movie is substantively a different expecience, that the viewer's interpretation is correct etc etc.

TL:DR version, the judge just gave the people an opportunity to make their case, or at least not have it dismissed on first amendment grounds (or the state law equivalent). They still actually have a huge hill to climb, and I'd be pretty shocked if they actually win this case. Honestly, the law firm who was hoping to cash in on this should have really been patient and waited for a much better set of facts.

Good. SO tired of fake trailers. No more fake visuals/fake online chatter/CGI trailers. Why Nintendo is generally the best in their Directs. Show the game. Gameplay. A brief overview of what the game is and its mechanics. Perfection. Now if someone can stop AAA devs from putting all these shitty slow covers of songs in trailers.

Bite my shiny metal cockpit!

Now do this for all products. If I drink a disgusting light beer and I don’t have parties springing up all around me, like in the advertisements, I want to be able to sue those corporate bastards.

I describe myself as a little dose of toxic masculinity.

Jumpin said:

Now do this for all products. If I drink a disgusting light beer and I don’t have parties springing up all around me, like in the advertisements, I want to be able to sue those corporate bastards.

Huge difference between showing no-name commercial actors who don't know you exist showing up at fictional parties outside your house in Bud Light ads and showing famous A/B list actors in a movie trailer who aren't in the movie, though. One's a fictional depiction of beer parties for entertainment value, the other is straight-up lying to you, telling you this actor's in the movie when they're not.

Of course, Universal/Blumhouse were being shady as fuck basically telling us Halloween Ends was gonna be this big Laurie and Michael grand finale and, well, it wasn't. Michael's barely in the movie and we instead ended up following this Corey guy, but the judge's ruling unfortunately gives them enough wiggle room for that at least since he specifically mentioned interpretive art being protected under this new lawsuit.

Yeah, I know why they did it: they knew if we knew that it wasn't actually gonna be centered around "Laurie v. Michael: the final showdown, no bullshit this time, we swear", it would've caused a LOT of people to NOT part with their money. If they were being honest, they would've showed a lot more of Corey in the trailers because that's who the movie was actually about, but we didn't come to see that and they were well aware of that fact going in when making the trailers.

Though it appears a number of scenes in the trailer don't make it into the final movie. That, I can potentially sue them for if I see fit. This also seems very much like an actionable offense under the new lawsuit.

Last edited by KManX89 - on 09 January 2023

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At first I thought this was about those annoying game ads about a guy locked in a room with money and a lion. The game seems to be about removing the correct pins to get him to the money but if you download the actual game it's nothing like that.

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Hence why those "work in progress" things are at the bottom of most AAA trailers these days.