DVD (or VHS) cover art that misrepresents how much screen time a very well-known actor or actress may or may not have had in the film being promoted is nothing new, especially to the longtime home entertainment media consumer. Some of the more low-rent distributors will do just about anything to ship copies of the crappy flicks that have sitting around in their warehouse collecting dust, even if it means engaging in blatant false advertising. Honestly, what do they care? If burning off every last shred of moral fiber in their being means they’ll be able to move five more copies of some godawful public domain movie with video and audio quality that would be an epic overstatement to call sub-par off the shelves of Big Lots, then the only question they’ll ask is, “Got a match?”
Jesse Eisenberg, the star of Zombieland and The Social Network, has become the latest movie industry professional to have their image exploited by some scurvy film distributor in the name of making a quick buck off a cheesy flick. The actor, who has also starred in Adventureland and the recent 30 Minutes or Less, has filed a lawsuit against Lionsgate and Grindstone Entertainment for the misuse of his image on the DVD cover art for the horror film Camp Hell.
The film, originally titled Camp Hope, was made back in 2007 but not released until last August. By that time Eisenberg had starred in several high-profile hits and received an Oscar nomination for his performance in The Social Network, so despite only appearing in Camp Hell for less than five minutes, which he did as a favor for $3,000 for the filmmakers who were friends of his, the DVD cover art is designed to make it look like he’s the star of the film. He’s given star billing above the title and his face is the most prominent on the cover. In fact his face takes up so much space on the cover that there was no room to only feature any other members of the cast, which include Desperate Housewives star Dana Delany, former Brat Packer Andrew McCarthy, and Oscar-nominee Bruce Davison. All three of these actors, it should be noted, have been acting long before Eisenberg got involved in the game. They must feel appreciated.
The suit alleges that Eisenberg’s right of publicity was misappropriated when the makers of Camp Hell exploited his name and photograph purely for financial gain. Although the California state law on publicity rights bars the commercial use of a person’s likeness without their prior consent, the suit brought by Eisenberg and his representatives against the makers of Camp Hell seems structured more like a consumer class action suit than a dispute over publicity rights. The lawsuit claims that the producers of the movie are “continuing to perpetrate a fraud on the public” and that DVD consumers and fans of Jesse Eisenberg “should be protected” from such fraudulent advertising as playing up the actor’s role in the film to be greater than it actually is.
Eisenberg is asking for $3 million in damages. If the suit has any genuine merit it’s a certainty that both sides will compromise on a settlement and call it a day. I seriously doubt Camp Hell is worth the trouble.