Bernie may be dead, but nearly 25 years after Weekend At Bernie’s came out, money from the movie isn’t. To that end, 20th Century Fox and MGM were sued today for breach of contract by director Ted Kotcheff and writer Robert Klane for profits they say they are due from the 1989 comedy. Stating that the gross box office receipts for what they call “one of the most hilarious and endearing goofball comedies of the 80s” were more than $30 million and residuals for further venues for Bernie’s equal more than $16 million, the duo says they “have been, and continue to be, deprived of at least hundreds of millions of dollars.” While Fox was the distributor of the film back in 1980s, the complaint (read it here) filed in LA Superior Court today names both the studio and MGM as defendants because it says producers Gladden Entertainment Company, transferred all rights to Bernie’s to the two not long after the pic came out on July 5, 1989. Former MGM CEO David Begelman, who died in 1995, formed Gladden in 1984. Weekend At Bernie’s starred Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman as two up-and-coming corporate men trying to hide the fact their rich boss is dead and avoid the hitman after him. Hilarity ensues.
In their no-joke 6-claim complaint seeking a 2- to 3-day jury trial, Klane and Kotcheff are seeking unspecified “monetary damages,” general, special and punitive damages as punishment against the studios for their “wanton, willful, and fraudulent conduct”: as well as a full accounting, legal fees and pre-judgment interest. Both Klane and Kotcheff allege that the deals they individually signed in 1987 to do the Bernie’s pic guaranteed them a flat fee for their jobs and a percentage of the film’s net profits and a percentage of the film’s adjusted gross receipts, respectively. Both also were paid a flat fee as EPs. Despite their respective deals, and the WGA and DGA agreements meant to back them up, both the former M*A *S*H TV writer and Rambo: First Blood helmer say they haven’t seen any royalties nor been given a chance to look at the books on the pic. Now, like many before them in other suits over other movies against other studios, they want their chance and their money via the courts.
Kotcheff and Klane are represented by Stephen Doniger and Scott Burroughs of Culver City firm Doniger/Burroughs APC.