U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson ruled Despite Universal’s lawyers’ claim that the trailers are “artistic, compelling work” like the movies and are protected as “non-commercial speech” under the First Amendment, they are in favor of plaintiff’s claims that the trailer falls within the scope of false advertising laws. The jury disagreed, stating that although there is creative art in movie trailers, their main job is to advertise.
Basically, the ruling says that movie studios can be sued if they include scenes and/or actors not included in the movie in the trailer. That doesn’t mean cases will be successful in court, but the door is now open and that’s very bad news for movie studios.
On the one hand, the jury is not wrong that a trailer’s primary job is to sell the movie. It’s hard to dispute this decision, but a movie trailer isn’t as definitive and dry as, say, a furniture store promoting a single brand of sofa for one price and never having it in its store. Trailers are usually released long before the final movie ends, so you’ll see scenes that don’t have editing or different effect shots. The necessity to advertise a movie with a long lead time will mean that there is always a risk that the moments used in the trailer will not end in the finished movie.
Is this fair to the audience? This is debatable, but that’s what it is. Another thing to consider is that some studios use trailers to deliberately mislead the audience. Sometimes this is done in subtle ways to surprise the audience with a different tone or plot, and sometimes it’s done as an outright lie (looking at you, Marvel).