The trustees to author Philip K. Dick want an adjustment on their fees for The Adjustment Bureau – a rather larger adjustment of more than $500,000. In a 14-page civil case complaint filed today in LA Superior Court, (read the suit here) The Philip K. Dick Testamentary Trust says that director George Nolfi, producer Michael Hackett, Media Rights Capitol and its subsidiaries owe them at least half a million dollars plus fees and other damages “to be proven at trial” from the 2011 film. Citing Breach of Contract and four other claims, the Trust says that the defendants have refused repeated requests to open the accounting books. They also claim they have been shortchanged payments due to them from the film’s net profits and that Nolfi, Hackett and MRC have “demanded the return” of the $1.4 million fee paid in April 2009 for the movie rights.
This suit, filed in state court, comes over two months after the Trustees abandoned a previous federal case against Nolfi and MRC when the judge dismissed key claims citing lack of jurisdiction.
Starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, The Adjustment Bureau, was released on March 4, 2011 to good reviews and fairly strong box office. The movie, according to today’s suit and others, has made around $128 million in global box office as well as $10 million in domestic DVD sales, plus “unknown millions in international DVD sales” as well as TV sales. Nolfi and MRC claimed soon after the film initially came out that Dick’s original “Adjustment Team” story was in fact in the public domain and they owed the Trust nothing.
Like in the first case, the suit filed today says the original story was not in public domain. The Trust says says that Nolfi first optioned the film rights to the 1954 Dick short story “Adjustment Team” from the writer’s trust on May 23, 2001. Nolfi, who paid $25,000 for an initial one-year option and the same on later options, subsequently entered into extension agreements on the option in 2004, 2007 and 2008. The trustee’s suit, filed by Laura Archer Dick Coelho, also says that Nolfi agreed to pay an eventual purchase price for the rights based on the “approved budget” for the film. The director/producer also agreed to pay a “breakeven” fee of $100,000 when worldwide gross receipts, minus certain deductions, equaled double the cost of production plus marketing, overhead and interest costs. Nolfi, who “assigned” all his rights to MRC’s Oaktree Entertainment in the spring of 2009, additionally agreed to pay the Trust 2.5% of the film’s net profits and a “further $100,000 for each additional $10 million in worldwide gross receipts in excess of Breakeven up to the point the Trust received a total of $2 million in payments.” Oaktree exercised the option on the film, with a projected budget of around $50 million, and “wired payment of $1,400,000 to the Trust” soon after.
The Philip K. Dick Testamentary Trust, which says it helped on the script for The Adjustment Bureau, notes it also participated with ‘the valuable Philip K. Dick brand” in the marketing of the movie on the request of distributor Universal, who is not named as a defendant. Claiming the defendants have failed “to issue the required accounting statements” and “to make required payments,” the Trust is seeking a five to seven day jury trial.
A number of stories by Philip K. Dick, who died in 1982, have been made into films, including 1982’s Blade Runner with Harrison Ford, 1990’s Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger and 2002’s Minority Report with Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell. A Total Recall reboot, directed by Len Wiseman and starring Farrell comes out in August.
Justin Goldstein and Jay Handlin of Carlsmith Ball LLP in downtown LA represents the Philip K. Dick Testamentary Trust.