It turns out that Village Roadshow’s lawsuit against Warner Bros. over the day-and-date streaming release of The Matrix Resurrections was merely the first prong in a multi-pronged attack against Warner Bros. and its commitment to HBO Max. The suit, filed last week, suggested that Warner Bros. launched the new Matrix sequel on streaming specifically to tank its viability at the box office and stop Village Roadshow from making any money, jeopardizing its position as a co-owner and co-financier of the series. It also accused WB of not consulting Village Roadshow on the new release strategy despite working out “acceptable accommodations” with stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss as well as director Lana Wachowski.
Warner Bros. responded this week (via The Hollywood Reporter), calling the statement “duplicitous” and “contrived” in a statement, noting that Village Roadshow was “happy to have their name on the credits of the film, traveled to the world premiere in San Francisco, and held themselves out to the media as producers on the film” but has now “reneged on their contractual obligation to pay their share of the cost of the film.”
WB adds that it was able to come to “mutually acceptable agreements” with everyone else involved in the release of one of the 2021 movies that went to HBO Max and theaters in the same day except for Village Roadshow. Instead, according to the WB statement, it purposefully waited until the movie came out so it could have a “‘free look’ at the ultimate outcome of the film performance without any financial investment.”
In response to that response, Village Roadshow has now leveled up its argument against Warner Bros., accusing the studio of trying to force it out of the rights to all 100 or so of the films that it has co-produced and co-financed with Warner Bros. over the years. Village Roadshow says it’s being “excluded” from discussions about “several prequels, sequels, or television shows” that WB is working on based on movies that it co-owns with Village Roadshow, like Ready Player One, the Ocean’s movies, and the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies.
It’s unclear if WB is allowed to just do whatever it wants in this situation, with THR talking to a lawyer who said that Village Roadshow can’t force Warner Bros. to make a particular project, but it “gets trickier” when “decisions are made in bad faith”—like if Warner Bros. actively avoids doing a particular thing simply because Village Roadshow would want to be involved.
It’s all pretty messy, but the basic gist is that Village Roadshow believes it wasn’t involved in the decision to put the new Matrix movie on HBO Max, a decision it feels hurt the film’s box office returns on purpose. WB, meanwhile, says that it gave Village Roadshow every opportunity to be involved and that it refused. Now, Village Roadshow says it’s not just about the new Matrix, it’s about every movie the two studios have ever made together.
In one bonus wrinkle, THR says Warner Bros. is being represented by Daniel Petrocelli, the attorney working for Disney during the Scarlett Johansson lawsuit. That one got settled out of court, so we don’t know for sure, but it doesn’t seem to have worked out particularly well for Disney.