Make only honest film trailers: you might be sued for deception otherwise

23 December 2022

An American judge has ruled producers of the Danny Boyle directed Yesterday deceived potential viewers of the movie. Two fans of Cuban and Spanish actor Ana de Armas had hired a copy of the 2019 rom-com, after a trailer they saw suggested de Armas had a prominent role in the story.

After discovering this was not the case, they filed a lawsuit against the film producers. While de Armas was involved in filming, none of her scenes were included in the final cut.

Film production company Universal Pictures had contended film trailers are an “artistic, expressive work”, presumably meaning any content — within reason I imagine — can feature in a trailer, but the court rejected the argument:

But according to a ruling from U.S. District Judge Steven Wilson, obtained by Deadline Hollywood, “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.”

Plenty of film trailers include scenes that are not seen the later theatrical release, and this often happens for good reason. Some scenes may spoil vital plot points, while other “extra” snippets may play a part in building up pre-release anticipation. I’m not entirely against the practise, these sorts of trailers are better than the ones that are essentially a short version of the feature itself.

But suggesting a certain actor will feature, when they don’t, is another matter. Particularly for people who see films solely because of the (advertised) presence of a specific actor. It will be interesting to see what the final outcome will be in this case.


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