Producers of the film claimed that the studio knew this release model “would decimate the film’s box.”
Village Roadshow Sues Warner Bros.
Village Roadshow Entertainment, which co-produced “The Matrix Resurrections,” filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. on Monday over its hybrid release strategy for the film.
Like all 2021 Warner Bros. films, “The Matrix Resurrections” was released on HBO Max the same day it hit theaters. Village Roadshow alleged in its suit that this strategy, along with the studio’s choice to push the release date from 2022 to 2021, harmed the film’s box office gross.
“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, especially as compared to a 2022 exclusive theatrical release,” the suit, which was filed Los Angeles Superior Court, said.
The lawsuit also claimed the release model was a violation of Village Roadshow’s contract with Warner Bros.
The Keanu Reeves-led sequel has made $37.3 million domestically and $153.5 million worldwide since its Dec. 22 release. Since filmgoing has started back up in 2021, even major blockbusters are largely not making what they would have in pre-pandemic times.
The one exception to the rule is Marvel’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which has grossed a whopping $1.7 billion worldwide. It is the first and only film to cross the billion mark globally since COVID-19 shuttered moviegoing in 2020.
Village Roadshow argued that because “The Matrix Resurrections” was also a blockbuster sequel, it would have likewise benefited from an exclusive theatrical release.
“Notably, Spider-Man was not a day-and-date release,” the lawsuit stated. “Instead, Sony and Marvel (Disney) released the film exclusively in theaters, as has been the industry’s practice for decades. That film’s starkly different financial success speaks volumes about WB’s day and date release strategy.”
Village Roadshow Predicts Long-Term Consequences From Low Box Office
The suit also alleged that by putting the film on HBO Max right away, Warner Bros. opened the door to “rampant piracy” that also prevented the film from raking in top dollars at the box office. The producers believe that the franchise will suffer long-term consequences because of its low earnings.
“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,” the lawsuit said.
A Warner Bros. spokesperson condemned the lawsuit in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.
“This is a frivolous attempt by Village Roadshow to avoid their contractual commitment to participate in the [related] arbitration that we commenced against them last week,” the spokesperson said. “We have no doubt that this case will be resolved in our favor.”
Village Roadshow’s lawsuit is just the latest battle in a war between studios, movie theaters, and streaming services. Last year, actress Scarlett Johanssen sued Disney for its hybrid release of “Black Widow.” The star claimed that the strategy broke her contract and cost the film money. Theater owners likewise said that Disney harmed its box office earnings by putting “Black Widow” on Disney+ for a premium fee. The two parties settled for an undisclosed amount in September.
See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The Verge) (CNBC)
Senators Introduce Legislation Requiring Radios to Pay Royalties to Artists
Sen. Padilla argued the bill is necessary to give artists the “dignity and respect they deserve.”
The American Music Fairness Act
Sens. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the American Music Fairness Act to the Senate on Thursday, a bill that would require radio stations to pay royalties to performers and rights holders.
The bill was previously introduced to the House last year. According to a release, the United States is the only democratic country where artists are not compensated for their music’s use on AM or FM radio. While songwriters and publishers receive payment, these stations have never been required to give a slice of the pie to performers and copyright holders.
On streaming and satellite radio, however, both groups receive royalty payments.
In a statement, Padilla said it is time the country starts treating “our musical artists with the dignity and respect they deserve for the music they produce and we enjoy every day.”
“California’s artists have played a pivotal role in enriching and diversifying our country’s music scene,” he added. “That is why passing the American Music Fairness Act is so important.”
“From Beale Street to Music Row to the hills of East Tennessee, the Volunteer State’s songwriters have undeniably made their mark,” Blackburn echoed. “Tennessee’s creators deserve to be compensated for their work. This legislation will ensure that they receive fair payment and can keep the great hits coming.”
The American Music Fairness Act would require terrestrial radio broadcasters to pay royalties to music creators when their songs are played. It would also protect smaller stations that either make less than $1.5 million in annual revenue or who have a parent company that makes less than $10 million in annual revenue by letting them play unlimited music for under $500 a year.
The bill would also require other countries to pay American artists for the use of their work.
Support From Major Music Groups
The legislation is endorsed by a number of groups, including the Recording Academy, SAG-AFTRA, and the American Federation of Musicians.
If passed, the bill could move a lot of money into the pockets of performers. According to the Recording Academy, when American music gets international airplay, other countries collect royalties for American artists, amounting to around $200 million every year. However, they “never pay those royalties because the U.S. does not reciprocate with our own performance right.”
Fran Drescher, President of SAG-AFTRA, argues that the money belongs to the artists.
“Broadcast companies profit from advertising sales because of the creative content musicians and singers record. It stands to reason that the performers who create the content deserve to be compensated just as songwriters are now,” Drescher said in a statement. “The reason it’s called the American Music Fairness Act is because the current situation is wholly unfair and it’s up to Congress to make it fair NOW!”
Last year, Representatives Steve Womack (R-AR) and Kathy Castor (D-FL) introduced the Local Radio Freedom Act, a bill with essentially the opposite agenda. It aims to reserve radio’s royalty-free status. The American Music Fairness Act is being viewed as a counter-response to this bill.
Kanye West Says Catalog Is Potentially Being Sold Without His Permission: “Just Like Taylor Swift”
After Swift lost the rights to her life’s work, she took on the endeavor of re-recording her first six albums.
Kanye’s Catalog Potentially Up For Grabs
Following reports that Kanye West was considering selling his catalog, the artist took to Instagram on Tuesday to claim his work is potentially being sold without his approval.
On Monday, Billboard reported that West had been “quietly and intermittently shopping his publishing catalog.”
While the outlet’s sources did not reveal what price West was aiming for, Billboard estimated that West might be looking at a $175 million valuation for his discography. Some of Billboard’s sources seemingly suggested that West and his team were specifically behind the effort to sell his work, but others claimed the “catalog was never actively shopped” and instead, West had been receiving offers from potential buyers.
Not long after, several news outlets picked the story up and reported that West was gearing up to sell his catalog. West responded by writing on his Instagram story that this was not the case.
“Not For Sale”
“Just like Taylor Swift,” he said, referencing music mogul Scooter Braun purchasing Swift’s masters with Big Machine Records without her approval. “My publishing is being put up for my sale without my knowledge. Not for sale.”
Swift referred to the sale of her masters to Braun as her “worst case scenario.” In order to regain ownership of her work, she is in the process of re-recording her first six albums, all of which she originally made under Big Machine. Two have already been released and proved to be wildly commercially successful.
According to Forbes, it is unclear which of his albums West owns the masters to, if he owns any at all. Because of this, it is unknown what kind of position he would be put in if his catalog, which is currently managed by Sony, was sold.
The status of any potential for his work to be sold became foggier later on Tuesday when West shared screenshots of a text exchange he had. He asked an unidentified person what was happening with the catalog sale, and that person responded by calling it “fake news.”
“Of course every publisher wants to pitch [their] hardest buy, smh,” the text continued.
West did not further indicate if those texts were meant to clarify that his catalog was, in fact, not up for sale, or just further distance himself from any potential acquisition.
“Squid Game” Director Defends Reality Spinoff of Hit Series Amid Backlash
“When you take things too seriously, that’s really not the best way to go for the entertainment industry,” the Emmy-winner said.
“Squid Game” To Get Reality Treatment
Emmy Award-winning “Squid Game” director Hwang Dong-hyuk addressed the mounting backlash a reality spinoff of the popular series is facing while speaking to reporters at the Emmy Awards on Monday night.
“Squid Game” quickly became Netflix’s most-watched series following its release last fall. In a searing examination of capitalism and class division, the South Korean drama follows people who choose to compete in schoolyard-style games with life or death stakes in hopes of winning enough money to pay their debts off.
Over the summer, Netflix announced plans to make a reality series based on the games featured in the show called “Squid Game: The Challenge.” Just like in “Squid Game,” 456 contestants will compete for a prize of $4.56 million. Though in this case, losers will not be executed. Netflix is billing the program as “the biggest reality competition ever.”
The announcement of the show was met with swift backlash from those who felt a reality adaptation of these games missed the point of the original series. Some even argued it felt dystopian to have real people participate in a cash-grab game based on media meant to highlight the tragedies surrounding poverty and desperation.
Hwang Responds to Criticism
While speaking in the Emmy’s press room following a successful night for the breakout series, Hwang said he understood where some of the criticisms were coming from but defended the reality series.
“I think that even though our show does carry quite a heavy message — and I know that there are some concerns of taking that message and creating it into a reality show with a cash prize,” he said via Variety. “However, I feel like when you take things too seriously, that’s really not the best way to go for the entertainment industry. It doesn’t really set a great precedent.”
“I would say that reproductions of such efforts are going to bring new meaning to the industry, and I hope that this is going to be a great new direction for the industry overall,” the director continued.
“Squid Game” won six Emmy awards including Hwang’s trophy for Outstanding Directing For a Drama Series and Lee Jung-jae’s victory for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series.
No release date for “Squid Game: The Challenge” has been released yet, but it is set to film in the United Kingdom.