'T4': Rise of the lawsuit

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Following a breakdown in negotiations over the distribution of "Terminator 4," the movie's producers filed a complaint for declaratory relief Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeking an injunction against MGM.

The T Asset Acquisition Co. -- representing producer Moritz Borman and Halcyon Co. principals Victor Kubicek and Derek Anderson, who acquired rights to the "Terminator" franchise this year -- contended in the filing that MGM did not negotiate in good faith when the two parties sat down in June to hammer out a distribution deal for the movie, which MGM would like to release in 2009.

MGM maintains that it acquired first rights in the 1990s for an exclusive, 30-day negotiation for distribution rights to the films in the franchise. Although T Asset, the company formed to produce the movie, challenges that contention, it says that Borman and MGM COO Rick Sands first met for lunch on May 31 at Houston's in Century City to begin to discuss a deal.

T Asset alleges that MGM made an initial offer of $200 million in production and marketing commitments, but because MGM also insisted on approval for director, star, screenplay and budget as well as a lower backend participation for the producers, T Asset said the proposal fell short.

Because T Asset hadn't allowed MGM to read the screenplay and hadn't revealed who would direct and star in the film -- which will not involve original star Arnold Schwarzenegger -- MGM suspended negotiations, awaiting a counterproposal.

On June 26, T Asset notified MGM that MGM's negotiating window would close as of June 29. MGM's attorneys responded with a June 28 letter accusing T Asset of making an unreasonable "take-it-or-leave-it demand," saying that the negotiating window remained open and that T Asset could not talk with other distributors.

Claiming that MGM is trying to "disrupt and prevent any efforts by T Asset to negotiate with any third parties," T Asset is asking the court for a permanent injunction against MGM, to declare MGM's first negotiation rights unenforceable and to prohibit MGM from interfering with T Assets' negotiations with other parties.

"MGM is completely comfortable with its rights position on the 'Terminator' franchise, and we will not allow anyone to interfere with our rights," MGM spokesman Jeff Pryor said.
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