Four Hollywood studios today had class action lawsuits filed against them that allege the short changing of home video royalties. If successful, the suits could result in a multi-million dollar windfall for the plaintiffs. In nearly identical filings Wednesday in LA Superior Court, Paramount Pictures, Universal City Studios, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Sony Pictures Entertainment were taken to task for their practice of paying profit participants based on 20% of home entertainment revenues. Paramount and Universal were sued by director Colin Higgins over 1978’s Foul Play and 1982’s The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas (read them here and here) The trustee of Charles Bronson’s estate, Larry Martindale, sued Sony over 1975’s Hard Times (read it here) and Fox was sued by director Stanley Donen over 1975’s Lucky Lady (read it here). The dates of the films are important because the plaintiff’s argue in their filings that their contracts with the studios were made before the 20% figure became the industry standard in the early 1980s. In the plaintiff’s view, their contracts dictate that they should be receiving royalties from 100% of the home video revenue of their films. “Notwithstanding the 100% Gross Receipts Provision, SPE only includes 20% of the revenue generated by its own subsidiary/affiliate, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, from Home Video distribution, when it reports income earned from exploitation and distribution to Plaintiff and the Class. As a result, 80% of the income derived from Home Video distribution is not being credited as income to Plaintiff and the Class when SPE accounts to profit participants. Instead, SPE wrongfully keeps this money,” states the Bronson estate’s suit against Sony. The other suits say the same thing about their respective studio.
While seeking unspecified punitive and other damages, the plaintiffs have requested a jury trial in the breach of contract suits. The four class action suits were put together by lawyers from four different LA firms.