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Studios don’t usually like to talk about all the money they’ve thrown at a big project. Unless someone comes along and tries to piggy-back on their marketing efforts. Then, they will happily dish about the millions they’ve sunk into perfecting everything down to the unique “m” in the film’s logo.
On the verge of releasing one of its most expensive movies since “Lord of the Rings,” New Line Cinema has filed a $10 million lawsuit in New York District Court claiming that Koch Entertainment’s upcoming video release, “Beyond the Golden Compass,” is unlawfully trying to capitalize on the December 5 theatrical release of “Golden Compass,” a potential franchise starter featuring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, which the company says it paid $180 million to produce.
According to this complaint, which alleges copyright infringement, false advertising, and unfair competition, Koch is producing, marketing, and distributing “Beyond the Golden Compass” in a “cynical and transparent effort to unfairly compete with and capitalize on the massive publicity and promotional effort attendant to the upcoming release of the Plaintiffs’ Film, and in complete disregard of Plaintiffs’ exclusive rights in the underlying material.”
Conveniently-timed direct-to-video releases that sound eerily similar to big studio films and feed on the same marketing hype are a grand tradition in the entertainment industry. Take film studio The Asylum’s oeuvre, which includes such gems as “Transmorphers,” “Snakes on a Train,” and “The Da Vinci Treasure.” Mostly, this market has been given a free pass from copyright and trademark troubles.
Not this week. New Line licensed Philip Pullman’s hugely successful trilogy of novels, “His Dark Materials,” hoping to have another “Lord of the Rings” this holiday season.
And Koch, the defendant, is no back-alley knockoff artist. It’s one of the largest independent distributors of film, music, and television with yearly revenues close to $200 million and ties to Universal Music Group’s European division. According to the complaint, filed by Tom Ferber and Mark Tamoshunas at Pryor Cashman in New York, Koch not only took the New Line film’s name, but also marketed its movie to include “re-enactments” of characters, scenes, and other elements from the Pullman book.
Oh yeah, it allegedly took that stylized “m” too.
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