Bradley Cooper Denied Ticket to Appeals Court Over Weinstein Debt

The producer, stars and director of 'Silver Linings Playbook' objected to the sale of their talent participation agreements. The Third Circuit rejects a petition that presented a "critical" issue impacting Hollywood.
THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY
Bradley Cooper in Weinstein Co.'s 'Silver Linings Playbook.'

On Friday, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals shot down an attempt by Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, David O. Russell and others associated with Silver Linings Playbook to show up and argue why they've been unfairly cheated out of money from the Oscar-nominated film.

The movie was produced by The Weinstein Company, which filed for bankruptcy in the aftermath of sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Rights to the picture were then sold to Lantern Entertainment, now Spyglass Media Group, as part of a $289 million package for the debtor's assets. But the Weinstein Co. had many debts, among those to various talent who starred, directed and executive produced in films and television shows. Many of the stars didn't think their contracts could be assigned without first wiping out what was owed under profit participation deals.

To "test" this assumption, Lantern sued Silver Linings Playbook executive producer Bruce Cohen in an effort to show it had properly acquired rights to the film free and clear of liens, claims, encumbrances and other interests. In January, Lantern emerged victorious when the bankruptcy judge ruled that Cohen's deal was not executory, meaning that it had already been substantially performed.

Thereafter, Cooper became the first-named petitioner in an attempt to directly appeal the decision to the Third Circuit.

The legal issue at play was characterized as "critical" and one that would advance the progress of the bankruptcy case. There are many alleged victims of Harvey Weinstein who are still seeking to collect, and the pot of money to distribute awaits some resolution to the issue of what's being sold through the Chapter 11 process.

The Cooper parties also stated in a petition that neither the Third Circuit nor the Supreme Court has ever resolved the question of whether "a work for hire agreement containing ongoing obligations of the parties in connection with a film can be an executory contract following the release of such film."

If allowed to stand, the bankruptcy order would permit a buyer of a bankrupt studio's assets to purchase talent participation agreements — ones where stars licensed the use of their likenesses and had rights for sequels — irrespective of money owed.

"The result in this case will have a significant effect not only on the Counterparties, but also on all other actors, producers, writers, and directors negotiating multimillion-dollar participation agreements with movie studios," continued the petition. "Given the sheer volume and frequency of such transactions, and the clear impact that a ruling on the executoriness of such contracts could have on the talent's ability to ensure payment in the event of a studio's bankruptcy, the issues clearly have great public importance."

The bankruptcy judge certified an appeal after Spyglass didn't take a position on the matter.

Nevertheless, the star power and presented significance of the issue hasn't convinced the Third Circuit. Without explanation, the petition for a direct appeal was denied today.