Village Roadshow, the production company behind “The Matrix,” “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Happy Feet,” “Joker,” and more is taking Warner Bros. to court over what it calls a “breach of contract.”
The breach, according to Village, stems from Warner Bros.’s decision to put “The Matrix Resurrections” on HBO Max, the same day as theaters, rather than put all its efforts behind a full-scale theatrical run. “Resurrections” only made about $150 million worldwide during its time in theaters, failing to make back its budget of $190 million and falling far behind its predecessors. The other three “Matrix” films each made at least double their budgets back at the box office, with the second film, “The Matrix Reloaded,” making over $700 million back in 2003.
“WB’s sole purpose in moving the release date of “The Matrix Resurrections” forward was to create a desperately needed wave of year-end HBO Max premium subscriptions from what it knew would be a blockbuster film, despite knowing full well that it would decimate the film’s box office revenue and deprive Village Roadshow of any economic upside that WB and its affiliates would enjoy,” the suit said.
Obviously, the landscape surrounding “The Matrix Resurrections” differs greatly from the first three films — and not just because of the pandemic, either. While it’s true the pandemic may have affected the film’s gross, other films have performed very well at the box office, even when compared to pre-pandemic totals. To no one’s surprise, Marvel’s tentpole franchises like “Spider-Man,” “Shang-Chi,” and “Venom” performed well, as well as international blockbusters like “F9: The Fast Saga” and a Warner Bros. contemporary in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” but even children’s films like “Cruella,” “Jungle Cruise,” and “Sing 2” generated some serious revenue, too (more than “Resurrections,” at least.) According to Box Office Mojo, “The Matrix Resurrections” was the 28th highest-grossing film of 2021, putting it under films like “The Suicide Squad,” “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” and “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway.” Note that the former two films also appeared on HBO Max closely following or alongside their theatrical runs.
Since the start of the pandemic, streaming services have offered feature-length films direct to their platforms. HBO Max has been a massive proponent of this, offering films like “Wonder Woman ‘84” and “Godzilla vs. Kong” to their platform for a limited time either alongside or in lieu of a theatrical release. As “Resurrections” launched so closely to “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” moviegoers could have chosen to see “Spider-Man” (which was released on December 17,) in theaters while saving “Resurrections” (December 22) for their at-home experience, knowing that they could watch the film there without having to make another trip to the theaters.
This isn’t the first time a company has been brought to court over putting a new film on a streaming service, either. Scarlett Johansson sued Disney last year, also citing a breach of contract, over moving her film “Black Widow” to Disney's Premier Access function in tandem with the film's theatrical release. Ultimately, the two sides settled out of court a few months later, but a precedent was set, and now we have a chance at another precedent — for which side will the court rule in favor?
HBO Max has two tiers, an ad-supported plan for $9.99 and ad-free plan for $14.99. HBO Max without ads also includes features like the ability to download offline and 4K streaming.
They also will get Max Originals that aren’t available to HBO channel subscribers, like “The Flight Attendant” (Kaley Cuoco), “Love Life” (Anna Kendrick), as well as reboots to “Sex In The City” and “Gossip Girl.”