The original cast of Norman Lear’s groundbreaking 1970s sitcom Good Times has taken to Kickstarter to fund an original movie the includes the same characters. The Original Good Times Cast Movie brings together all the original stars (sans Esther Rolle, who died in 1998). The project, which Jimmie “Dyn-o-mite” Walker calls a docu-drama-comedy, is being done to give fans closure on what happened to Lear’s fictional Chicago family. The cast is doing this together outside of rights owner Sony, saying that they are not infringing on the copyright or trademark.
“In the case of Good Times there is going to be a comparison, but it’s not an infringement of copyright,” said Shaun Weiss, who is the attorney for both BernNadette Stanis (who played Thelma in the TV show) and the project. Kevin Fontana is her manager. “What we are doing is bringing a new era into the cast. The characters have never been copyrighted or trademarked,” said Weiss.
The Kickstarter campaign is trying to collect $1 million, and has $2K in the coffers with 16 days to go.
“The cast are all friends, they are united” said Weiss. “The best thing in the world is taking the popularity in the TV show and bringing closure to it a different way. The whole premise of the movie is to show the Evans family in the future and what they’ve all become without bringing in the old. If there is a piece of the old show that would be used, we understand that we would have to get clearance, but that is not the case. We are not going to tread on the old Good Times. What we are doing is using the characters and doing something new and telling a very different story.”Stanis, Walker, John Amos, Ralph Carter and Ja’Net DuBois are part of the new project, with Johnny Brown, who played Bookman, also likely to be involved, said Weiss. Good Times, which Lear recently said he planned to reboot, originally aired from 1974-79 on CBS. It’s no secret that the cast and Lear clashed creatively on set at times, and the film is being done entirely by the cast without Lear’s involvement.
Lear’s ACT III told Deadline that Sony owns the rights to Good Times, which Weiss acknowledged.
“They are the rights holder to the DVDs and VHSs … that’s a whole different entity to what the cast is doing,” Weiss said. “They are not going to use any part of footage from Good Times, so when it comes to licensing that, there is no licensing that must be attained for that. We’ve applied for copyrights for the trademarking the characters, the licensing and images and the logo, so when we go forward with the original cast for the Good Times movie, we can protect the movie as a logo.”
“If you don’t bring in the images and likenesses that are owned by Sony, then you don’t have an issue. If they were going to take the property, the intellectual property owned by Sony and start to incorporate it into the movie, they would have to deal with licensing fees. We aren’t infringing on anyone’s copyright because it’s not under the umbrella of what they are doing. In this case, it’s just bringing closure to fans who are curious about what happened to them. All we are doing is taking a cast and bringing it into the future.”
The Kickstarter promo reel for the new project does use footage from the original show, for which they said they got clearance from Sony. The company had no comment.