Hollywood Docket: Warner Bros. Fights Licensing Lawsuit Over 'Laws of Attraction'

Plus a class action over song subtitles and profit participation claims from 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' filmmakers.
Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. again is trying to defeat a lawsuit from two German film companies over Laws of Attraction, the romantic comedy with Julianne Moore and Pierce Brosnan, and three other movies.

The film finance companies MHF Erste Academy and MHF Zweite Academy (collectively MHF) first sued Warner Bros. in 2012 over the other three films, The Whole Ten Yards (with Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry) The In-Laws (with Michael Douglas) and Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (with Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu).

The 2012 lawsuit spun off the bankruptcy of David Bergstein's Franchise Pictures. MHF granted the rights to the three films to Franchise, which in turn licensed them to Warner Bros. When Franchise collapsed, Warner Bros. continued distributing the films without a valid license, claimed MHF. Warner Bros. paid $432,578 in 2013 to settle the case and pledged to provide accountings on the films going forward.

Two years later, in January, MHF sued the studio over the same three movies plus Laws of Attraction, which MHF claims Warner Bros. is distributing without copyright ownership and without paying MHF according to a licensing agreement with the Franchise subsidiary Lake.

There are two sides of the agreement now in dispute.

Regarding Laws of Attraction, Warner Bros. says in a motion for summary judgment Monday that it did pay according to the licensing agreement, which requires Warner Bros. subsidiary New Line pay 10 percent of proceeds to Lake, which would in turn pay half to MHF.

If Lake hasn't paid MHF, says Warner Bros., it's not the studio's problem.

"Defendants' only obligation is to make payments on Laws of Attraction 'due to MHF,' and the relevant agreements make clear that those payments are due not to MHF, but to Lake," states the motion. "MHF did not sue Lake, as it should have done, but instead filed this lawsuit against New Line and the other Defendants in an effort to have them pay directly to MHF monies New Line owes, and has already paid to, Lake."

As for the other films, MHF says Warner Bros. has failed to make additional payments under the 2013 settlement and wants the court to rescind the agreement. Warner Bros. says MHF's claim the studio “defaulted” on the agreement amounts to making the additional payments "a few weeks after those payments were due." Warner Bros. fulfilled the agreement by paying $39,459 for the three films in August 2014 and $4,699 for Ballistic and In-Laws in September, claims the studio.

"MHF's only complaint regarding the [three] films appears to be that the statements and Corridor Payments were untimely. MHF, however, points to no ‘time is of the essence’ provision (because there is none) in the Settlement Agreement,” states the studio, represented by Caldwell Leslie & Proctor's Linda Burrow.

Read the full motion.

"We are working on our response to their motion. We believe their motion is without merit," says MHF lawyer Lauren Gans of the Shenson Law Group.

In other entertainment law news

— The people behind the 1990s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies won $471,235 in a default judgment Monday against rights holder Fortune Star Media. Now they want to collect — from Warner Bros., which controls the films' original distributor New Line. Producers Kim Dawson and Gary Propper, director Steve Barron, writers Bobby Herbeck and Todd Langen and Anna Cottle, the wife of late producer Graham Cottle, who claimed in July Fortune Star owed them $3 million in Turtles profits, now allege Warner Bros. owes Fortune Star money and, with Fortune Star absent from court and "fail[ing] to satisfy any portion of the judgment," they want the studio to pay them the judgment directly (read the request). Warner Bros declined comment.

— Subtitles for dialogue in film and TV are standard stuff, but what about song lyrics? Films from Guardians of the Galaxy (iconic 1970s soundtrack and all) to Rocky and shows including House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black without song subtitles are the subject of a proposed class action against Netflix and a group of major studios. Claiming violations of business practices laws and California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, the nine plaintiffs look to represent a class of millions in getting their money back for films and TV shows without song subtitles (read the complaint). Sony, Paramount and Warner Bros. declined comment. THR has requested comment from the other defendants.

— On Dec. 3, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will hear arguments for the consolidation of six lawsuits over the NFL and DirecTV’s “Sunday Ticket” into the California lawsuit from the San Francisco bar The Mucky Duck. The same day, the panel will consider the consolidation of lawsuits in Alabama, Texas, Missouri and two in California over the Ashley Madison hack (and numerous lawsuits over the Volkswagen scandal).

Oct. 26, 9:56 a.m. Updated with comment from MHF attorney Lauren Gans.

Oct. 26, 11:55 a.m. Updated with Warner Bros. denying comments.

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