Film Producer Sues Goldman Sachs, Alliance Films Over Six Movies

Canada's top indie film companies are in a court battle over critically acclaimed films. The U.S. investment bank's private equity arm allegedly sold international distribution rights without notice and consent.
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Veteran movie producer Robert Lantos, who has been one of the most important figures in the Canadian film industry over the years, is suing Goldman Sachs Investment Partners for selling international distribution rights to six films that were previously controlled by his former company, Alliance Communications.

Goldman Sachs acquired Alliance Films in 2007 for $2.3 billion and then made deals to sell international distribution rights to films to Atlantic Alliance International, which then was sold to Echo Bridge Entertainment. The latter company acquired approximately 7,500 film titles, including six critically-acclaimed films in which Lantos claims a stake. The films are István Szabó's Sunshine, Atom Egoyan's Ararat, David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ, Bruce McDonald's Picture Claire, Denys Arcand’s Stardom and Paul Gross' Men With Brooms.

Serendipity Point Films, Lantos' film studio, filed the complaint in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice against Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, Echo Bridge, Alliance Films and Alliance Atlantis, reports The Globe and Mail.

Lantos' company is alleging a breach of a production and distribution agreement that required Goldman Sachs to provide Serendipity, "with timely and accurate reports regarding the international revenues and profits earned by the films."

Lantos tells the Canadian newspaper that he's been frustrated by attempts to find out more about the 2008 sale of Alliance Atlantis' film titles to Echo Bridge.

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"We have repeatedly attempted to get information about the terms of the sale, and a report on the international revenues of these films, but to no avail," he says. "Unfortunately, I have no choice but to turn to the courts to enforce my contractual and moral rights.”

Lantos, who most recently produced the 2010 Oscar-nominated film Barney's Version, says Goldman Sachs disposed of the international rights to his films without providing notice of the proposed assignments and asset sales nor gathering consent, as was allegedly required by contract. Lantos is also suing Alliance Films, because the contract was with them, which puts Lantos in the awkward position of suing both his former company and his friend, Victor Loewy, who is the company's chair.

"It pains me to have to sue the company I founded and spent 25 years building," he said.

At the time of the 2008 deal, Lantos attempted to make his own move to acquire rights to Alliance Atlantis' titles, but but was rebuffed, allegedly because Goldman Sachs saw him as a competitive threat to Alliance Films. In January, Goldman Sachs reportedly put Alliance, Canada's largest indie film distributor, up for sale.

Goldman Sachs and Echo Bridge haven't commented on the lawsuit.


Twitter: @eriqgardner

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