Movie Studios Can Now be Sued for False Advertising in Trailers

The days of movie trailers featuring scenes or clips that are later cut from the final film may be coming to an end, thanks to a ruling by the U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson ruled this week that movie studios can be sued for false advertising if deceptive trailers are released.

This historic decision was made in a case involving the 2019 Danny Boyle film Yesterday. The trailer for the film featured actress Ana de Armas in a role, which prompted two fans to rent the film for $3.99. They were disappointed to learn that she had been cut from the final film, and in January they filed a $5 million federal class action lawsuit against Universal studios for deceptive marketing. Universal made attempts to have the lawsuit thrown out on the basis that trailers were protected under the First Amendment and that they were “artistic, expressive works” that should be considered a three-minute story rather than an outright commercial. This assertion was however rejected by Judge Wilson, who stated that movie trailers are considered “commercial speech” subject to California’s False Advertising and Unfair Competition Laws.

The learned judge went on to state, “It 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 Court’s holding is limited to representations as to whether an actress or scene is in the movie and nothing else.”

This ruling would drastically change the movie landscape, as it means that studios can now theoretically be sued under false advertising laws if they put out deceptive movie trailers. thus empowering an outpouring of disgruntled viewers to institute lawsuits because a movie did not meet their expectations created by the trailer. However, the final outcome of the Ana de Armas Yesterday lawsuit is still unclear as the case proceeds through the judicial process.


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