Assuming all die-hards who purchased the 50th anniversary James Bond DVD box set wish to get their hands on the 007 movie in which David Niven played the British spy, MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will now be providing it at no extra charge. This past week, a motion for final approval of a class action settlement was filed in Washington federal court that could mean $8.7 million worth of digital copies of Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again are made available to consumers.
A little more than a year ago, Mary Johnson sued on behalf of herself and others who bought the Bond 50 box set upon packaging that stated, “All the Bond films gathered together for the first time,” only to be disappointed by the absence of the above-mentioned two films. The lawsuit claimed a violation of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.
Neither Casino Royale nor Never Say Never Again were associated with MGM. The first was a Columbia Pictures spoof starring Niven, Woody Allen, Peter Sellers and Orson Welles. The latter was a film from Kevin McClory, the screenwriter who worked with Bond author Ian Fleming in creating Thunderball and who at one point claimed co-ownership in the character. Sean Connery reprised the role that made him famous.
“Despite representing that the Sets contain EVERY charismatic star, David Niven, the ‘charismatic star’ of Casino Royale is missing from the Sets,” stated the complaint, which added for extra context, “David Niven was James Bond creator Ian Fleming’s first choice to play James Bond in the James Bond movies.”
Pffft, responded the defendants.
“[N]o reasonable purchaser would expect that a box set would contain films that are not included on the list of titles clearly printed on its packaging,” argued MGM in a motion to dismiss.
U.S. District Court judge Ricardo Martinez had some fun in the subsequent decision to allow the case to move forward.
“At this time, the Court will Live and Let Die,” he wrote in a pun-laden decision allowing some claims to survive and others to fall by the wayside. “The Court finds the questions of how a reasonable person would interpret ‘all’ and ‘every’ and what qualifies as a James Bond film remain for the trier of fact to decide. These terms are not unequivocally puffery as a matter of law.”
Disappointingly, there will be no trial because the parties have seemingly done the math and figured out the cost of litigation wasn’t worth fussing over popular understanding of the Bond franchise.
According to court papers, class members who don’t opt out of the settlement and timely file a valid claim form will receive digital copies of the two “non-franchise” films. An attorney for the plaintiffs estimates this is worth approximately $8,694,000, although that figure obviously assumes opt-ins and is calculated from the $13.99 cost on Amazon for Never Say Never Again and the $14.99 cost on Amazon for Casino Royale.
The $8.7 million figure is also probably presented with an eye on getting the judge to approve $350,000 in fees and costs for the attorneys at Eisenhower Carlson.
As for Johnson, she not only gets the two Bond films to complete her set, but also an “incentive payment award” of $5,000. But maybe she deserves it as she states in a declaration that the case exposed her to substantial publicity while adding, that “at times this publicity was very hostile.”
Oh, and one more settlement term…
According to the motion for approval, “The Settlement Agreement also ensures that packaging of future Sets will describe the contents of the Sets so that it is clear that any collection does not include these non-franchise movies.”