Honeymoon's over for 'Wedding's' creative team

Says Gold Circle owes them profits

Alleging big, fat accounting problems, the creative team behind "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" is suing Gold Circle Films for profits from the 2002 low-budget comedy phenom.

Plaintiffs in the suit, filed late Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, include business entities controlled by Nia Vardalos, who wrote the screenplay and starred in the film, and those of producers Tom Hanks, Rita Hanks and Gary Goetzman. Collectively, the creative team has shared in profits rising into the tens of millions, but it claims that a lack of transparency in accounting by film co-financier Gold Circle has left the plaintiffs uncertain of how much they are owed.

The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages and a full accounting of film profits under court supervision. In addition to Gold Circle, the suit names as defendants related entities Big Wedding Prods. and Vortex Pictures.

"The accounting statements rendered by defendants have been vague and inadequate in failing to provide information consistent with industry standards," alleges the suit, filed by Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert of Santa Monica.

Plaintiffs claim Gold Circle reports gross receipts of the film -- produced on a budget of $5 million -- total $287 million, even though media reports indicate a tally closer to $400 million. The defendants have failed to provide an audit requested to clarify the matter, the plaintiffs said.

Vardalos' contract stipulates an 8% participation in adjusted gross profits, while the other three plaintiffs are owed one-third each of the net balance remaining after backend disbursements, according to the suit.

IFC, the domestic distributor of "Greek Wedding," was a nonequity contractor on the film and is not a party to the suit.

Scott Niemeyer, a principal at Gold Circle, issued a company statement denying all claims in the lawsuit, which he labeled as "frivolous."

"The lawsuit filed by the plaintiffs is completely without merit," Gold Circle said. "Gold Circle has fully complied with its contractual obligations and has already paid plaintiffs a combined total of over $44 million in profits on my 'Big Fat Greek Wedding.' Gold Circle has never thwarted the producers' audit rights.

"Since receiving plaintiffs' initial audit request over two years ago in early 2005, Gold Circle has invited plaintiffs' auditors to schedule and conduct their audit," the statement added. "However, for over two years the plaintiffs and their auditors have done nothing to advance an audit. Plaintiffs' representatives have filed this frivolous lawsuit as a desperate attempt to cover up their failure to initiate potential audit claims that have since been time-barred under the express terms of the applicable contracts."