Miramax Can't Trim Saul Zaentz's $20 Million 'English Patient' Lawsuit

Harvey Weinstein looks primed for an April trial showdown over the 1996 Best Picture winner.

A Los Angeles judge on Wednesday refused to dismiss an allegation that Miramax refused to bargain in good faith when negotiating for The English Patient some two decades ago. As a result, The Saul Zaentz Co., producer of the 1996 Oscar Best Picture winner, is looking at a potential April trial.

Zaentz filed the $20 million lawsuit against Miramax in September 2011, alleging Harvey Weinstein's company shortchanged him on a film that grossed more than $300 million when it came out. "To this day, despite the great success of the film, [Zaentz] has not even received from Miramax payment sufficient to recoup [Zaentz's] costs of producing The English Patient," the suit said.

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The lawsuit deals with revenue accounting and alleges improprieties in the way expenses were deducted in coming to calculations over profit sharing. The suit alleges a conspiracy "to keep the picture in a paper loss position so that no matter how much money The English Patient earned, Miramax and Disney would reap all of the profits" while Zaentz would never share in the success.

In response to the lawsuit, Miramax has attempted to bar certain claims as outside the statute of limitations. The defendant pointed to potential accounting concerns as early as 1996, while Zaentz's attorneys believed that the statute of limitations wasn't triggered until a 2000 audit report. At that point, the parties entered into a tolling agreement that extended the time to bring claims.

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Today, L.A. Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin seemed to favor Zaentz's position but decided that a jury would have to decide it. Further, the judge suggested that Zaentz would be able to recover damages on this claim.

Miramax is being represented by Martin Katz. Zaentz is repped by Martin Singer and Brian Wolf. A 15-day trial is tentatively scheduled to begin on April 21.

The development came too late for Zaentz himself; the famous producer died on January 3.

Email: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com

Twitter: @eriqgardner