Two men just gained major ground in a lawsuit against Universal Studios that dealt with allegedly misleading movie trailers, specifically referencing a promo for “Yesterday” that included actress Ana de Armas despite her not being in the final cut.
Plaintiffs Paul Michael Rosza and Conor Woulfe were attempting to head up a $5 million class action lawsuit against the studio since January 2022. Both said they rented the movie “Yesterday” on Amazon Prime for $3.99 with the expectation of watching de Armas in the film after seeing her in the trailer. They were disappointed that her scenes were cut from the final version.
Rosza and Woulfe claimed that “advertising and promotion of the movie ‘Yesterday’ is false, misleading, and deceptive.” Universal had moved to have the case dismissed.
Universal reps defended their decision to keep de Armas in the trailer, claiming that the promos are entitled to free speech protection under the First Amendment. Studio lawyers further claimed the trailer represented “artistic, expressive work” and should be considered “non-commercial” speech, per Deadline.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson disagreed with the studios and ruled that trailers should be classified as “commercial speech” and would therefore be subject to the California False Advertising Law and Unfair Competition Law.
“Universal is correct that trailers involve some creativity and editorial discretion,” Wilson said of his decision, but went on to say “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.”
To avoid a slew of lawsuits from moviegoers who would argue that movie trailers are misleading, the judge clarified that the false advertising stipulations only apply to movie trailers when a “significant portion” of “reasonable consumers” would be tricked into believing the movie was something other than what it really was.
“Yesterday” is a 2019 romantic comedy about an alternate reality where only some people remember the Beatles and their music. De Armas was meant to play a love interest named Roxanne who caught the eye of male protagonist Jack Milak (Himesh Patel), but her scenes were all cut when she was called out specifically as being a negative influence on the main character during screen tests.
“I think the audience did not like the fact that [Jack’s] eyes even strayed,” screenwriter Curtis told Cinamablend in 2019 of why the subplot was ultimately cut from the final version.