According to an exclusive story in The Wall Street Journal, Village Roadshow is suing Warner Bros. over the simultaneous release of The Matrix Resurrections in cinemas and on HBO Max. The lawsuit’s main issue is over Warner Media CEO Jason Kilar’s “Project Popcorn,” which is the name of a pandemic-era program that offered all of Warner Bros.’ 2021 theatrical movies concurrently on HBO Max for the first 31 days of release.
According to the WSJ, while Warner Bros. paid out over $200 million in new compensation to people involved in the 2021 theatrical lineup, including The Little Things, The Suicide Squad, and Reminiscence, people involved in The Matrix Resurrections (at least not Village Roadshow) did not receive the same additional compensation.
The Matrix 4 co-producer Village Roadshow Entertainment Group filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, February 7, 2022, alleging Warner Bros., owned by AT&T Inc. unit Warner Media, move to simultaneous release in 2021 was a breach of contract. Similar to the lawsuit filed by Scarlett Johansson over the simultaneous release of Black Widow, the suit also alleges the studio moved the release date of the film to 2021 from 2022 to attract more HBO Max subscribers, depriving the filmmaking company of theater revenue.
The lawsuit accurately claims that The Matrix Resurrections failed disappointingly at the box office, bringing in only a fraction of the income produced by its predecessors. According to a report by Forbes, The Matrix Resurrections grossed only $38 million domestically and $155 million internationally, compared to The Matrix‘s $171 million/$469 million, The Matrix Reloaded‘s $281 million/$742 million, and The Matrix Revolutions‘ $138 million/$429 million.
“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,” Warner Bros. said in a statement. “We have no doubt that this case will be resolved in our favor.”
It may be hard for Village Roadshow to prevail in this suit, although there are other factors the court may consider in the complaint; they will also analyze how the film did in comparison to other theater releases produced during the same time period and other movies released through a simultaneous release method. The Forbes piece goes over many these points in depth as well, vigorously rejecting the lawsuit’s claim.