EXCLUSIVE: Already hobbled by venomous litigation among its past and present principals, outside investors and others, Birdman financier Worldview Entertainment now is trying some legal maneuvers of its own to get a hold of funds and due process it say it have been denied. Battling over European distribution of the Zach Braff pic Wish I Was Here plus 2014’s The Search and 2013’s Jimmy P., the company today sued Wild Bunch in Los Angeles Superior Court. Worldwiew is seeking injunctive relief over the past two films and aiming for arbitration over Wish I Was Here.
“This case arises out of Wild Bunch’s extralegal attempts to deprive Worldview of the benefits of the parties’ contract with respect to one film and to extract from Worldview benefits to which it is not entitled with respect to two other films,” states the 14-page complaint filed Tuesday (read it here). Ironically, while Worldview wants arbitration over Wish I Was Here and the $293,081 and more it says it is owed by the French sales-financing-distribution outfit, the now New Jersey-based company is trying to stop any arbitration in NYC over The Search and Jimmy P.
Essentially, Worldview claims that the draft agreement between the companies over the two films was still a work in process and never signed. Among the consequences of that and other conditions never being is that the arbitration provision in agreements for both The Search, which stars Annette Bening, and Jimmy P., which stars Benicio Del Toro, has no standing, according to Worldview and its lawyers at Glaser Weil Fink Howard Avchen & Shapiro. Worldview wants the court to put a halt on the arbitration Wild Bunch is pursuing in NYC over a claim of breach of a “purported” financing agreement on the films.
It also wants the California court to make a “declaration of the parties’ right and obligations” under the term sheet. “If the New York arbitrations are allowed to proceed, then Worldview will be deprived of its right to trial and of the protections of California law against Wild Bunch’s baseless claims of breach, and will suffer irreparable harm. Moreover, judicial intervention is necessary to prevent a multiplicity of judicial proceedings with potentially inconsistent results.”
Pulling back the shades on film financing and how messy it can be, Worldview wants the same California court to deal with its dispute with Wild Bunch over the Kickstarter-funded 2014 Sundance fave Wish I Was Here – and this time it is all about the arbitration, though it might be some time coming.
Calling Wild Bunch’s withholding of the $293,081 from the overall owed $1.075 million of Wish I Was Here from French, German and Spanish territories “the equivalent of outright theft,” Worldview also notes that its Collection Accounts Manager Agreement with the company has stalled because of the dispute – which is one reason this lawsuit is happening now.
“On or about August 23, 2015, the CAMA’s collection agent notified the parties that, in light of the conflicting claims between Wild Bunch and WIWH Funding with respect to monies due under the CAMA, the collection agent had elected to ‘suspend the distribution of the disputed amount’ until the conflict between Wild Bunch and WIWH Funding has been resolved,” says the complaint. That means the already-hurting once-highflying Worldview just lost access to more money, even it was from a film that proved a flop.
That situation might be worsened as Worldview alleges that Wild Bunch has not collected the agreed minimums for the film from distributors in “Middle East,” Australia, India, Taiwan, Latin America, CIS, Airlines, ex-Yugoslavia, Iceland, Israel, Turkey, Portugal and Switzerland. “Wild Bunch’s actions with respect to the withholding of funds from WIWH Funding go beyond a mere breach of the CAMA — they constitute a breach of Wild Bunch’s fiduciary duties, a blatant interference with Worldview’s existing business relationships and prospective business relations, and a wrongful conversion (i.e., theft) of monies due and owing to WIWH Funding,” says the complaint.
Stay tuned for how this one plays out – and for how long. We’ll update as this develops.