3:48pm PT by Eriq Gardner
'Amazing Grace' Producer Agrees Not to Screen Aretha Franklin Doc for Next 30 Days
Amazing Grace, which features footage from Aretha Franklin's 1972 gospel concert at New Missionary Baptist Church won't be shown to the public or to film executives in the next month. On Tuesday, an attorney for the singer told a Colorado judge that producer Alan Elliott has agreed to a 30-day injunction that bars the Sydney Pollack-shot documentary from being shown commercially. The stipulation happens as the two sides look to see if there's a settlement to be made.
On Sept. 4, hours before Amazing Grace was to open the the Telluride Film Festival, U.S. District Judge John Kane granted Franklin's request for a temporary restraining order. The singer has argued that that the Amazing Grace producer had a contractual obligation to get her permission and that the film festival violated her right of publicity when he didn't. Despite First Amendment principles that frown on prior restraints, the singer got an injunction against Telluride showing the film and indirectly interrupted planned showings at the Toronto and Chicago film festivals.
On Sunday, Franklin filed an amended lawsuit.
Notably, Elliott was added as a defendant and the new complaint spoke of a screening of the film in Toronto for film executives. The purpose of this screening was to line up a distributor.
Instead of suing in Canada, which would presumably be the proper jurisdiction over a dispute regarding a Toronto screening, Franklin instead has added a breach of contract claim and is now seeking a declaratory judgment that Elliott and anyone working with him must obtain Franklin's authorization for a public screening. It's a novel demand, but the case thus far has been anything but ordinary.
Whether or not the case goes any further, though, will likely depend on the next few weeks as the parties seek to come to a resolution. According to court documents in the case, Franklin's camp believes that Amazing Grace is going to net $2 million for the producers. The singer is reportedly demanding $1 million for her consent.
With the amended lawsuit (Telluride was dismissed as a party on Monday) and latest demand, Franklin's lawyers are looking to push her perceived legal advantage just as negotiations for distribution of Amazing Grace are underway. The timing of the new complaint probably isn't coincidental.
In turn, Elliott will attempt to negotiate a $1 million demand down with the carrot being a share of proceeds on Amazing Grace for Franklin and the stick being potential counterclaims asserted against the singer. The path this litigation takes — deal or no deal — should become clear soon enough.