EXCLUSIVE: The Jean-Marc Vallée-directed film is back in the spotlight and not for the acting Oscars that Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto took home in 2014. Investors in Dallas Buyers Club filed a potentially multimillion-dollar fraud and breach-of-contract lawsuit late last week in Texas against Voltage Pictures and its CEO Nicholas Chartier. Alleging that Voltage owes them cash from the $55 million-plus that DBC has made around the world plus global home entertainment revenues, the jury-trial seeking complaint from Lone Star State-based Truth Entertainment is seeking a wide range of damages from a full accounting of all the international deals for the 1980s-set drama about HIV/AIDS patients. In yet another case of plaintiffs claiming to be newbies being subjected to a Hollywood shell game, they also want all the dough that they believe Voltage has pocketed that should have gone to them.
When contacted by Deadline, Voltage reps said they were not aware of the legal action and had no comment. Focus distributed Dallas Buyers Club domestically and is not named in the complaint as a defendant.
“Mr. Newcomb and the investors asked about updates on the foreign box office and requested on a number of occasions copies of the foreign distribution agreements from Mr. Chartier,” says the June 12 complaint, citing Truth’s CEO and Dallas Buyers Club EP Newcomb a relative new investor to Hollywood (read it here). “Mr. Chartier refused to give them copies of the foreign distribution agreements. He refused to give them even basic information about the expectations from foreign sales,” the filing adds. That puts it mildly: The complaint actually includes what claims to be an excerpt from an May 2014 email from the Voltage boss where he says: “Can you please stop asking the same dumb stupid idiotic questions every week???? We keep telling you the same answer, emailing you the same answer, calling you with the same answer!!! Read your emails! Stop! Get a life!”
There apparently are about 30 foreign distribution deals in place, and the plaintiffs say they’ve gotten their hands on a few and “they are different than what Mr. Chartier has represented them to be,” says the complaint. “Voltage and Mr. Chartier misrepresented the amount of minimum guarantees owed,” it adds. “For example, in the Scandinavian agreement governing Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland the minimum guarantee should be $50,000.00 more than represented due to what should have been a charged box office bump.”
“The Plaintiffs may be off on the potential numbers but have no way of knowing unless they see the agreements and the accounting statements from Voltage and its distributors,” the 11-page complaint says. “It has been over a year since that first request was made. Voltage should have over 200 statements from its distributors yet claim to have none.”
Introduced to the struggling DBC by a producer acquaintance, Truth Chemical boss Newcomb came in August 2012, just weeks before the pic was set to start shooting after initial financing suddenly had pulled out. With McConaughey up against other commitments and already having lost a ton of weight for the role, this was do-or-die for DBC. Getting on board and moving fast, Newcomb’s Truth provided more than $1.6 million in financing from a group of around 10 investors. With Chartier made an executive producer on the film, Voltage also signed on to DBC as a co-producer and the foreign sales agent at the same time with a $3 million investment. Put together plus with tax incentives from Louisiana, that money made up the film’s nearly $5.6 million budget.
Chartier’s company was to get a 15% return on its money, while Truth’s group was to see the same plus 35% of all backend net proceeds, according to last week’s filing. That eventually was changed to a 20% return. While it took awhile, Truth did get its investment back, that return and that backend from the pic’s just over $27 million domestic box office, but they’ve seen nothing from outside the U.S.
“For the country of Italy, Voltage initially represented that the minimum guarantee was $260,000.00,” the filing by the plaintiff’s attorney James McBride of Montgomery, TX, says, citing another of many examples. “When asked why only $130,000.00 had been collected, Mr. Chartier claimed that number was wrong and that it was only $130,000.00 and therefore no money was due from Italy. When asked for a copy of the agreement, Chartier refused to provide a copy. Plaintiffs have yet to see a copy of that agreement.”
We’ll see if this lawsuit helps them get their hands on that agreement or the cash they say they’re owed — or not.