Jesse Eisenberg Beats Lionsgate in Round One of 'Camp Hell' DVD Lawsuit (Exclusive)

The actor is suing over the promotion of the horror movie, in which he merely cameos.
New Films International

A Los Angeles judge has tentatively sided with Jesse Eisenberg and is allowing the actor to pursue a lawsuit against Lionsgate for allegedly promoting his brief cameo in the horror flick Camp Hell as an above-the-title starring turn.

Read the Ruling Here

As we first reported in November, the Social Network and Zombieland star sued claiming $3 million in damages for being positioned as the lead actor in the film even though he performed for one day (and earned only about $3,000) as a favor to friends who were making the low-budget thriller about a demonic possession at a Christian camp. Eisenberg filmed his tiny role in 2007, well before his 2010 Oscar nomination for Social Network. The DVD released Aug. 9 featured Eisenberg's name in large letters above the title.

Eisenberg claimed false advertising and a violation of his right of publicity, saying the defendants' use of his name and photograph exploited him for financial gain.

Lionsgate and producer Grindstone Entertainment then responded with an anti-SLAPP motion, arguing that the case should be dismissed as an infringment of free speech rights under California's broad law. (That's a typical strategy in movie-related cases.)

But in a detailed tentative ruling issued Tuesday and obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, L.A. Superior Court Judge Linda Lefkowitz denies the anti-SLAPP motion, allowing Eisenberg's case to move forward because the "speech" in question is commercial in nature, which isn't protected under the California anti-SLAPP law. "The content of the materials was commercial, by virtue of proposing a commercial transaction, despite perhaps falsely leading the consumer to believe that [Eisenberg] is the star of the film," the ruling states. "The court thus finds that the speech at issue in this case constitutes commercial speech, which is not subject to protection under [the anti-SLAPP law]." (Tentative rulings are not final and must be confirmed by the court, but judges rarely overturn their tentative rulings after going into a detailed discussion of the law and the facts.) 

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The court also suggested that Eisenberg has a strong likelihood of prevailing on at least some of the claims in the case, though the judge is careful to say she is not making a determination of the credibility of the claims at this early stage. 

We've reached out to Lionsgate for comment.

EIsenberg is repped by Marty Singer at Lavely & Singer. Lionsgate is repped by a team at Davis Wright Tremaine.


Twitter: @THRMattBelloni