March 10, 2011 2:51pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Bank Sued For $8 Million Over Wesley Snipes Movie (Exclusive)
Perpetual Media Capital, a UK-based entertainment financing group, is suing the National Bank of California for allegedly backing out of a promise to co-finance a film, Game of Death, starring Wesley Snipes.
Game of Death was one of the last Snipes films before he landed in jail, where notwithstanding a plea to the U.S. Supreme Court, he'll be for the next three years for tax evasion. The film was released last month on DVD without playing in U.S. theaters.
In 2009, PMC says it was ready to roll the dice on Game of Death with alleged assurances that the National Bank of California would be the principal "Production Financier," providing a senior production loan for about $5 million. Adrian Ward, the bank's senior vp entertainment, sports and media development is said to have committed to this arrangement provided that PMC agree to put up the necessary bridge financing, estimated at the time to be about $1.7 million.
PMC, whose movies include the low-budget Dorian Gray, St. Trinians 2, and Harry Brown, says it provided that money, plus continued to cash-flow the production costs beyond the amount of the Bridge Loan, paying various fees like attorney costs as well as compensation to the film's actors and director. Ultimately, PMC says it invested nearly $7 million in Game of Death, expecting that it would recoup its investment once NBCal put up its sum.
By October, 2009, for unspecified reasons, NBCal's position toward the film had allegedly changed.
PMC says NBCal changed the terms of the loan commitment, demanding a higher loan fee percentage and additional non-refundable commitment fees. One of the producers, William Dietrich, is said to have represented he "would not have much choice" but go along with this plan, provided he receive an additional $100,000 producer fee. But PMC says Ward "plotted" with Dietrich to "induce PMC into providing financing for the Picture on terms most favorable to NBCal and Mr. Dietrich personally."
Because the terms were changed, the Picture's strike price couldn't be met, which led the parties to revisit the finance plan.
By December 2009, the co-financing arrangement had fallen apart, and NBCal allegedly failed to uphold its end of the bargain on assurances to provide capital.
PMC is now suing for breach of oral contract, promissory fraud, unfair business practices and demanding at least $8 million. The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in LA Superior Court.