The release of The Matrix Resurrections was predictably divisive among fans, but apparently the rifts go even deeper than that. Village Roadshow, a co-producer on the film, is suing Warner Bros over a breach of contract regarding the release, citing it as the latest example in a larger plot to distance the companies and their shared intellectual properties.
As one would expect in a major lawsuit with billion dollar implications, it’s a bit complicated. But, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, the heart of it is basically Village Roadshow believes Warner Bros. moved the release of the new Matrix film from 2022 to 2021 as a way to drive subscribers to its HBO Max streaming service with little regard for its theatrical box office. This, in turn, hurt not just the company’s bottom line but it believes the viability of the valuable Matrix franchise as a whole.
“WB’s sole purpose in moving the release date of The Matrix Resurrections forward was to create a desperately needed wave of year-end HBO Max premium subscriptions from what it knew would be a blockbuster film, despite knowing full well that it would decimate the film’s box office revenue and deprive Village Roadshow of any economic upside that WB and its affiliates would enjoy,” the lawsuit says. Apparently, while Warner Bros. made deals with the filmmakers of its other 2021 releases that debuted simultaneously on HBO Max and in theatres, The Matrix wasn’t one of them.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg though. In fact, the lawsuit claims it’s just one example of what Village Roadshow sees as an ongoing effort to “eviscerate the significant value of Village Roadshow’s intellectual property in order to prop up the new HBO Max streaming service.”
That also includes changing the language in regards to the upcoming film Wonka starring Timothée Chalamet. The lawsuit claims that initial reports on the film called it a prequel to Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which Village Roadshow has a stake in, but later Warner Bros. changed that and claimed there was no connection to that specific film. Perhaps most interestingly though is a claim in the lawsuit regarding the much-loved Tom Cruise film Edge of Tomorrow, which like The Matrix is both a Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow film. According to the suit, Warner Bros. asked Village Roadshow to give up its rights and the company refused, leaving the show’s future in question. (We’ve reached out to HBO Max to see if there’s any more info available on the show and will update this post if and when we hear.)
“This is a frivolous attempt by Village Roadshow to avoid their contractual commitment to participate in the arbitration that we commenced against them last week,” a spokesperson for Warner Bros. said in a statement. “We have no doubt that this case will be resolved in our favour.”
Village Roadshow and Warner Bros. have been teaming up for 25 years and have, to date, made 91 films together. In that time Village Roadshow has paid Warners $US4.5 ($6) billion. So it’s a very big deal, even more so than a similar case that was filed last year between Scarlett Johansson and Disney over a breach of contract with the release of Black Widow. That case was eventually settled.