Village Roadshow Is Suing Warner Bros. Because The Matrix Resurrections Was Released On HBO Max

On the surface, the news of Village Roadshow's lawsuit against Warner Bros. sounds like a re-run of the lawsuits that rose up over the last year and a half as studios grappled with releasing their product during a global pandemic, but there's a way more sinister accusation at the core of this particular suit.

Previous legal rumblings surrounding studios like Disney and Warner Bros. shifting their theatrical slate to their streaming services came from actors and filmmakers upset because a good chunk of their salaries were struck pre-pandemic and tied to box office milestones. When it's something like "Black Widow," you can rest assured those bonuses were more than a lottery ticket provision within the contract, made in hopes that the film might catch fire. 

Disney and Warner Bros. both quickly moved to pay out millions to their talent to one, stop lawsuits from progressing and two, to ensure that talent would come back for the next picture. From what I understand, any new contract with a lead actor or director addresses the possibilities of a day-and-date release and compensates them accordingly, as well they should.

That's great for the creatives, but what about when the decision to go day-and-date impacts the folks that actually put up the money to make the film? Enter Village Roadshow's lawsuit today...

Village Roadshow Claims They're Being Swindled

Village Roadshow has co-financed many films with Warner Bros., which typically means they split the costs of producing a film and then split the money that comes back, a big chunk of that being box office receipts. Village Roadshow co-financed "The Matrix Resurrections" and says they were not consulted about Warner Bros. putting the film out day-and-date on HBO Max, which might drive subscriptions to the studio's streaming service. But guess who doesn't get a cut of those subscription fees? Village Roadshow, that's who.

Things get even crazier when Village Roadshow alleges that tanking the box office of "Matrix Resurrections" was potentially a calculated move by Warners because now the movie only pulled in $148 million Village Roadshow is coming up short in a contractually obligated payment due to Warner Bros. which would cause the outfit to lose their stake in the rights to those films. The suit alleges:

"WB's strategy not only ensured that 'The Matrix Resurrections' would be a bust at the box office, but it also inflicted serious harm to the entire 'Matrix' franchise. There can be no doubt that the abysmal theatrical box office sales figures from 'The Matrix Resurrections' dilute the value of this tent pole franchise as a film's lack of profitability generally prevents studios from investing in additional sequels and derivative films in the near term."

To sum up, Roadshow is saying Warners had no reason to keep the film day-and-date ... theaters are open, box office is up, and Warners themselves moved their other properties, like "The Batman" to a theatrical only debut in 2022 ... and that they did so in a calculated effort to wrestle the rights away from Village Roadshow.

Warners responded to the suit saying it was frivolous and an attempt by their co-financier to avoid paying what they owe to retain their rights to the "Matrix" franchise. 

This whole situation is murky and muddled, and an indicator of just how complicated distribution is right now. Audiences are back in theaters but only for certain giant movies and the last two years has gotten a whole lot of us used to being able to watch stuff from the comfort of our living rooms without any kind of delay. 

It'll be a minute until things are settled and it's very possible there's no going back to exactly how it was before.