How The Matrix Resurrections Lawsuit Is Really A Warning About Consolidation In Hollywood


As more and more questions about the future of streaming plague Hollywood, numerous lawsuits regarding the financial beneficiaries of this transition have arisen. Most of them, including Scarlett Johansson vs. Black Widow costumeended in colonies. However, a retrial of the Hollywood stalwart Village Roadshow Pictures v WarnerMedia poses a new question in this ongoing quagmire: are streamers trying to weed out the rest of the industry’s old guard?

Village Roadshow, an Australian finance and production company with three decades of box office success, filed a complaint essentially centering WarnerMedia’s highly controversial bets on the streaming market that began in 2021 with its day and date release template for all major movies. At the center of the complaint is the studio’s winter blockbuster The Matrix Resurrections, the fourth installment in the Keanu Reeves franchise, and allegations that the release was directly sabotaged to help the streaming site grow while hurting attendances. to the benefits of Village Roadshow.

However, the co-producer notes a more alarming trend that signals the future of production: WarnerMedia is making sequels and other IP-related shows that might technically be co-owned by Village Roadshow, but are essentially happening without their involvement as co-financier. While this may seem like a small technical glitch in how trade associations are defined, at stake is what Village Roadshow describes as WB’s “deliberate and consistent coordinated efforts to eviscerate the significant value of Village’s intellectual property. Roadshow”. The goal, especially as Hollywood continues to consolidate through mergers and acquisitions, appears to be preventing a major player from sharing the profits of streaming.

Collaborative pasts

Studios like Warner Bros., the subsidiary of Warner Media, have only a few in-house productions and instead rely on a number of production companies to make their movies and shows. These can range in size from Legendary (Godzilla vs. Kong, Dune) to Clint Eastwood’s personal production company, Malpaso. Village Roadshow is one of Warner Bros.’ longtime and most successful creators. since the 1990s. The production company has co-financed and served as production company on major hits like Ocean’s Eleven, The Lego Movie, Happy Feet, Mad Max: Fury Road and Joker, grossing the studio $4.5 billion in over the years.

Because it is a co-financier, the company leveraged to partially own the copyrights to these films (due to the idea of ​​”corporate authorship”, individual creators such as the writers and directors never own the copyright). This doesn’t give a company like Village Roadshow full rights – the contracts setting out these agreements usually give distributors like Warners the right to do what’s best for the property – but it does mean that a sequel or other spin-off property needs his permission (recent cases regarding copyright expiration of projects such as Predator and Friday 13 demonstrated some of these problems). Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow split copyrights to varying degrees over the years and agreed to collaborate on these sequels, prequels, and the rest.

Eliminate creators

Streaming has changed the way studios operate in many ways, and as studios continue to focus their efforts on the online market, that means forgoing not just old practices, but also old partners. While the majority of the lawsuit focuses on HBO Max’s detriment to profits from films like Joker and The Matrix Resurrections, Village Roadshow alleges that the studio is excluding him from future projects entirely.

Village Roadshow alleges that the studio is excluding him from future projects entirely.

One of the main properties at stake in the lawsuit is WarnerMedia’s upcoming film, Wonka, starring Timothée Chalamet as the beloved figure of Roald Dahl. Most would assume it’s a 2005 Charlie prequel starring Johnny Depp in the Chocolate Factory adaptation. However, WarnerMedia informed Village Roadshow that the film was a “qualified derivative work” under their agreements, meaning they could go ahead without any co-production agreement. To suggest that Wonka isn’t really a prequel seems absurd – the complaint includes photos showing the similar appearances of Johnny Depp’s character and Chalamet’s character, while WarnerMedia argued that the two films will feature different stories – but the project seems deliberately designed to cut Village Roadshow out of its typical arrangement where it would play a role in the film’s financing, production, and profit.

Wonka is just the first of a long series. After talks about an Edge of Tomorrow TV show, WarnerMedia basically told Village Roadshow that it would only move forward with projects between the two as a “co-producer” but would be “unable to pursue a project with Village Roadshow as a co-financier.” The objective, it would seem, would be to exclude the company from any decision-making regarding distribution and certainly profit sharing, by paying the company only an up-front fee from the producer to does the same work it has done for decades. In doing so, WarnerMedia can reap even more profit by retaining “valuable derivative rights to the tentpole films for itself and using those films”.

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