5:51am PT by Eriq Gardner
Producer of Halle Berry's 'Dark Tide' Sues Former Partner
The film Dark Tide, starring Halle Berry, came and went last year with neither much notice nor box office revenue. Now a lawsuit is exploring some drama in the distribution, which could impact a couple of films in development.
The plaintiffs in the case are Jeanette Buerling and the Magnet Media Group, who are behind the upcoming Married and Cheating, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Eva Longoria and Brendan Fraser.
Buerling is suing Maggie Monteith and affiliated companies. According to the lawsuit, Monteith was formerly a co-manager at MMG. Monteith is also credited on IMDb as an executive producer of the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man and on her company's website is listed as having worked on the marketing of such films as Godzilla, Men in Black and Star Wars: Episode II.
The crux of the lawsuit filed on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court is that Monteith allegedly diverted money, failed to make good on Dark Tide and breached fiduciary duties.
The complaint (read here) says that before Monteith executed a separation agreement from MMG, she was responsible for among other things distributing revenue to investors of The Experiment, a film which starred Adrien Brody and Forest Whitaker. She allegedly failed to turn over money to investor Natural Selection, which triggered a lawsuit, a settlement, and then an arbitration with the lawyers that MMG had to hire who wanted their legal fees.
Meanwhile, MMG got involved in Dark Tide "based in large part on its review of the sales estimate provided by the film's sales agent."
The key aspect of the sales estimate was supposedly the domestic distribution, and Monteith through her Dignity Group company was said to have stepped up into the distributor role.
But to become distributor required approval from lender and $1.5 million in escrow. MMG says it lent Monteith $500,000 until she could raise the full amount, and also paid her $160,000 to produce elements such as the trailer and advertising.
Then, says the lawsuit, Monteith separated from MMG, failed to raise the remaining $1 million -- "surreptitiously divert[ing] the money to her new companies" -- and failed to produce those marketing elements for Dark Tide. She also allegedly kept the $160,000.
MMG says it had to produce its own elements and "Because of Dignity's failure to perform, Dark Tide had to be fire-sold to a domestic distributor at a substantial loss."
Besides all the money that is said to have been misappropriated, and all the money that has been paid over legal problems, Buerling is also upset that Monteith has allegedly been in the process of making two films, Spy vs. Stu and The Beard/Cover Girl. Buerling says she has retained rights on these films and that the separation agreement only gave Monteith the ability to raise equity financing in exchange for revenue participation on the films. (The last time that Spy vs. Stu came up in The Hollywood Reporter was in 2006 when it was a planned New Line film starring Pierce Brosnan.)
The lawsuit filed by attorney Thomas Godwin seeks a declaration of rights and duties of the parties and a sorting of the money owed plus at least $1 million in compensatory damages and further relief.
Monteith couldn't be reached for comment.
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