'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Filmmakers Claim They're Owed $3M in Profits Lawsuit

The producers, writers and a director of the 1990s franchise say a rights holder won't pay them according to their contracts.
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'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' (1990)

The filmmakers behind the 1990s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies claim in a lawsuit filed Wednesday a franchise rights holder owes them $3 million in profits from the films.

Kim Dawson and Gary Propper, who produced 1990's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 1991's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze and 1993's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III filed suit with director Steve Barron, writers Bobby Herbeck and Todd Langen and the wife of late producer Graham Cottle, Anna Cottle.

They're taking on a company called Fortune Star Media, which they claim is the successor-in-interest of production companies Singel Film and Golden Harvest, which produced the Turtles films.

In the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, they claim the company "systematically, knowingly and intentionally withheld" accountings of the profits it received from Warner Bros. (which absorbed the films' original distributor New Line in 2008), therefore refusing to pay the filmmakers according to their profit participation agreements.

Propper and Dawson allege they're owed $1.5 million from contracts that entitle them to 10 percent of the three films' net profits in addition to their producing fee. Graham Cottle died in 1992, but his widow says his contract entitled him to 2 percent of the first film's profits, of which she is owed half, which she says is $125,000.

Barron, who directed the first film, claims he's owed $800,000 from his contract, which he says entitles him to 8 percent of the film's net profits. Herbeck, who wrote the first film, says he's due $250,000 from his contract entitling him to 5 percent of profits, while Langen, who rewrote Herbeck's script and wrote Turtles II, says he's due $500,000 from his contracts for the first film (2.5 percent of profits) and the second (5 percent of profits).

The plaintiffs want $3,175,000 plus damages on a cause of conversion.

While Warner Bros. is not a defendant, the complaint states, "Warner Bros. is and has been aware that Fortune Star has systematically, knowingly and intentionally withheld accountings and payments to plaintiffs of plaintiffs' portion of proceeds Warner Bros. has sent to Fortune Star and…Warner Bros. will, in all likelihood continue to do so." The studio declined to comment.

The Hollywood Reporter has requested comment from Fortune Star.

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