Weinstein Co. Fighting Director's $4.8M Fraud Lawsuit Over 'One Chance'

David Frankel claims the distributor agreed to release the film on at least 800 screens but instead buried it.
Courtesy of Photofest; Getty Images
'One Chance'; David Frankel (inset)

Director David Frankel is ramping up his claims against The Weinstein Company for burying his 2014 film One Chance after allegedly agreeing to a wide release.

A California judge on Wednesday allowed the filmmaker to pursue a fraud claim against the independent distributor and argue that TWC never intended to release the James Corden-led film on 800 U.S. screens as promised. The film, based on the story of Britain's Got Talent sensation Paul Potts, was released on just 43 screens in October 2014 and grossed a paltry $100,000 at the domestic box office.

Frankel, whose credits include The Devil Wears Prada and Marley and Me, originally filed suit last year claiming TWC agreed to release One Chance wide or pay $5 million in damages to be split between Frankel and the film's producers. When Weinstein did neither, Frankel sued for breach of contract and quantum meruit, a claim which essentially seeks to recover the reasonable value of a service.

During discovery, Frankel's attorneys, Marty Singer and Allison Hart, found evidence they say shows TWC never intended to pay the damages if the film didn't meet the minimum screen requirement. So in the amended complaint filed Wednesday, Frankel has added fraud and negligent representation claims to the mix.

Frankel claims his directing fee was $6 million per film at the time he was hired for One Chance, and he only agreed to take a lower fixed fee of $1.5 million (later reduced to $1.2 million) because the theatrical release guarantee would boost his contingent compensation, which was comprised of a percentage of first-dollar gross and adjusted defined proceeds.

A 2010 written agreement between Frankel and TWC stipulated that if the film didn't hit 800 screens, the director would receive $2.5 million and the producers would get the other half. The next month, Frankel claims TWC's attorney sent him a longform agreement that would have superseded the original deal if it was signed, but that deal not only didn't contain a so-called "liquidated damages" provision but actually specified TWC would have no obligation to produce, distribute or exploit the film. But Frankel says he never signed the longform deal and therefore it isn't binding.

Frankel claims his experience is part of a pattern of behavior by The Weinstein Company. "TWC rarely if ever pays liquidated damages when it breaches agreements with theatrical release commitments," the court papers allege. Instead, TWC is said to respond to complaints with threats and intimidation.

The director alleges when COO David Glasser learned of this lawsuit, he warned Frankel that TWC had the resources to "bury" Frankel in costly litigation. This allegedly came after Glasser boasted to a producer who complained about the breach that TWC "has the most money and the best attorneys in the [f—ing] business," according to court documents. Weinstein is being represented in the case by a trio of top lawyers: Bert Fields, David Boies and Alan Friedman.

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Boies says “the court’s decision does not rule that Mr. Frankel’s claims have any merit. It is purely procedural. The Weinstein Company has made clear to the judge that neither the facts nor the law support the claims."

Boies continues: TWC "looks forward to the opportunity to present its evidence and fully refute them as the case moves forward.”

Because Frankel's directing quote was $6 million at the time of the deal and he only received $1.2 million from TWC, he is suing for the difference: $4.8 million. He's also tacking on punitive damages "in an amount sufficient to punish and deter TWC."