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‘Matrix’ co-producer sues Warner Bros. over same-day HBO Max streaming release

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Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss star in Warner Bros.’ “The Matrix Resurrections.”
Warner Bros.

Village Roadshow Entertainment, a co-producer of “The Matrix Resurrections,” has filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros., alleging the studio parent’s decision to release the sequel on HBO Max and in theaters at the same time was a breach of contract, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

The suit, which was filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that WarnerMedia, a unit of AT&T, pushed up the film’s release date to 2021 from 2022 in order to bolster its subscriber base on HBO Max.

Representatives for Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

“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, according to WSJ.

Warner Bros. decided in late 2020 that its entire slate of films released in 2021 would arrive in theaters and on HBO Max on the same day. This practice was much needed in the early days of the pandemic, when vaccines were not widely available and audiences were reticent to return to movie theaters. However, towards the end of 2021, these dual releases significantly cut into box office ticket sales.

“The Matrix Resurrections” disappointed at the box office, partially because of its simultaneous release strategy and partially because its target audience is older than the moviegoers who have been most active in returning to cinemas.

Village Roadshow is not the first to sue a studio over a day and date release strategy. Last July, Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit against Disney, alleging her contract to star in “Black Widow” was breached when the media giant decided to release the film on its streaming platform Disney+ at the same time it launched in theaters. The two parties settled the dispute in September.

Read the full report from the Wall Street Journal.

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