Blade Runner envisioned flying cars in the year 2019. Instead, we merely get a lawsuit over a flying car in the sequel to the Ridley Scott sci-fi classic. Alcon Entertainment is now suing Automobiles Peugeot over a product placement deal for Blade Runner 2049 with the allegation that the French carmaker acted in bad faith.
Blade Runner 2049 clocked in at nearly three hours. That’s nothing compared to the 132-page complaint filed by Alcon Entertainment in federal court on Thursday, which discusses how Peugeot seized a few seconds of screen time, or how the studio puts it, “a rare opportunity for an automotive brand to enshrine itself in cinema and pop culture history.”
According to Alcon, Peugeot was eyeing a return to the United States market after 35 years of being away. And so the defendant put up a very big offer. Alcon says another automaker was willing to pay several hundred thousand dollars as well as spend $16 million for co-promotional advertising. That offer was bested by Peugeot’s proposal for a $500,000 fee and a commitment for a guaranteed media spend of $30 million.
The Blade Runner studio isn’t quite sure what was in the minds of those negotiating on the Peugeot end. Alcon raises some possibilities in the complaint. Maybe Peugeot intended to perform the agreement until the financial situation changed for the carmaker. Or perhaps Peugeot wanted to chase away the other bidders with aggression at the negotiating table. Alcon also theorizes that a senior Peugeot executive never really intended to fulfill obligations and instead “deny or throttle the deal through bad faith manipulations.” Or maybe, this executive was directed by superiors.
Use of the Voight-Kampff test in depositions may provide definitive answers. In the meantime, the parties allegedly came to a binding contract, although the parties struggled to come to a full written agreement.
Under the terms, the studio would work with Peugeot to integrate the automaker’s trade dress into the design of the flying car spinner for K, the character played by Ryan Gosling. Blade Runner 2049 would include Peugeot’s logo across three scenes lasting four seconds each including one where the logo is seen in a holographic advertisement. That was later amended to 10 seconds. The execution was subject to Peugeot’s review and approval, which was expected to be prompt and executed in reasonable good faith.
What followed were meetings in Budapest, transmissions of designs, rejections, modifications and further rejections. Alcon now alleges that representations were false, and that, “in fact, there was no funding within Peugeot for any media spend, whether or not the placement was satisfactory.”
Peugeot is said to have refused final sign-off on the long-form agreement and denied coming to any deal in principle including denials there was a co-promotional aspect. On and on the situation goes, spelled out in Alcon’s incredibly lengthy tome of a complaint (read here).
Despite the burgeoning dispute, Alcon says it nevertheless made K’s Peugeot-branded spinner the centerpiece of an immersive fan marketing experience at San Diego Comic-Con and allowed word to spread of Peugeot’s role in Blade Runner 2049. The French automaker is said to have gotten 12 seconds of branding visibility in the film itself.
“Peugeot never executed any promotion and the Picture undoubtedly suffered for it,” states the complaint. “The Picture had at least $30 million less in paid media to support the film’s release than expected, not to mention lost publicity, short-form video pre-ambles never made or released to consumers to pre-tell the story of K’s spinner as a Peugeot, and other ways to advance the film with consumers beyond even just paid media, that Peugeot should have been part of, and even led. But that Peugeot wasn’t and didn’t.”
Alson adds that Peugeot’s alleged bad faith failure to perform its obligations “almost certainly negatively effected the Picture’s box office performance,” implying that Blade Runner 2049 would have grossed more than $260 million with some flying car commercials.
Peugeot hasn’t yet responded to an inquiry.