Lionsgate Partner Sues Emmett/Furla Affiliate Over Robert De Niro Heist Film

German exhibition plans are allegedly interfering with distribution rights in North America.

The relationship between mini-major Lionsgate and financing powerhouse Emmett/Furla Films has hit a bit of a legal bump.

On Tuesday, Lionsgate's long-standing partner Grindstone Entertainment Group sued over Bus 657 (also known as The Heist), a film set to be released later this year about a casino robbery gone awry starring Robert De Niro, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kate Bosworth. Lionsgate and Grindstone hold rights to distribute the picture in North America, but according to a complaint filed in L.A. Superior Court, plans by the German distributor to release the film on VOD and DVD before the end of the year violates a contract.

The lawsuit comes six months after Lionsgate/Grindstone re-upped a deal with Emmett/Furla for ten new films. Bus 657 was one of the first films in this slate.

The defendant in the case is George Film Fund Twenty-Five, an affiliate of Emmett/Furla.

The lawsuit claims that the defendant's foreign licensing deals with the Ascot Elite Entertainment Group "now seek to rewrite and/or ignore Grindstone's rights."

As to which rights, Grindstone asserts that when it made the deal to acquire North American distribution rights, it got the exclusive right to set the worldwide dates for earliest distribution of the film and the right to preclude any exploitation of the film in all formats prior to certain "holdback dates."

Ascot allegedly intends to go forward with its own early distribution plans, perhaps raising unstated worries of piracy and how that might impact the film's North American box office.

Grindstone is asking for an injunction and damages for alleged contractual breaches and tortious interference.

In a statement, Emmett/Furla responded, "Lionsgate/Grindstone and Emmet/Furla are in good standing but we cannot comment on the holdback dispute."

Emmett/Furla is currently in pre-production on three upcoming films with Grindstone.

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