Yesterday, Trailers Could Misrepresent Movies -- Today, Not So Much

Have you ever seen a movie trailer that made the movie seem a lot better than it actually is?

Of course, you have. It’s the nature of all advertising to play up the best parts of the product and downplay the deficits. This Christmas ad from Toyota, for instance, doesn’t mention the harm that internal combustion engines and tailpipe emissions are doing to the environment because that would hurt the efficacy of a 30-second pitch.

Similarly, movie trailers emphasize the action and the tears rather than the dull parts of a movie. But what if they misrepresent a movie?

That was the case with the 2019 film “Yesterday”, which imagined a world without the Beatles. Two fans of actress Ana de Armas sued Universal in January because De Armas was in the trailer (seen above), but not the movie.



This week, U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson issued a ruling that movie studios can be sued for false advertising if they release deceptive movie trailers. Wilson found that a trailer is commercial speech, and subject to the California False Advertising Law and its Unfair Competition Law.

In the original film, De Armas appeared as a love interest for Himesh Patel, who plays the movie’s protagonist, but that scene was cut because audiences didn’t like the idea of Patel straying from Lily James, who plays his primary love interest.

The case makes it clear that misrepresenting a film in a preview is false advertising. Though the case isn’t settled, it should make others wary of crossing a similar line in the future.

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