Two producers today sued the Walt Disney Company claiming the company lifted their idea for a Christmas movie. “The ABC television movie, The 12 Dates Of Christmas, is nothing more than a hijacking of the Idea which was originally pitched by Plaintiffs to Defendants and the treatment which was given to ABC executives by the Plaintiffs, cloned and re-written in a crude attempt to conceal the brazen theft of the Idea,” alleges the Breach of Contract suit (read it here). Beth Grossbard and Barri Rosenblum, who goes by the professional name Barri Evins, are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from Disney, ABC, ABC Family and former ABC executive Beth Miller. In the complaint filed in LA Superior Court Monday, the duo allege that they and writer Denise Gruska met with then ABC Family Director of Development Miller and ABC Family VP of Original Programming Donna Ebbs on December 13, 2005 at ABC’s Burbank offices in a pitch meeting for their I Hate Christmas idea. It was from that meeting the Plaintiffs say that the idea for Miller-produced 2011 ABC Family movie The 12 Dates Of Christmas was hatched at their expense. In their four count complaint, including breach of confidence and breach of implied-in-fact contract, the duo have requested a four-day jury trial.
Unlike many such suits, Grossbard and Rosenblum are industry veterans. Grossbard has executive produced numerous movies of the week including The Christmas Shoes and its sequel for CBS and The Christmas Hope for Lifetime in 2009. Rosenblum served as president of Halloween producers Debra Hill Productions among other industry jobs.
The duo and Gruska seemed to think that their sitdown with the ABC execs went well. At the 2005 meeting today’s complaint claims that “both Ms. Ebbs and Ms. Miller thought the Idea was great and said they thought it was ‘unique.’ Ms. Ebbs and Ms. Miller said they would discuss the Idea internally and get back to Plaintiffs.” A few days later, the trio handed over a detailed eight-page treatment of the proposed film about a woman forced to relive Christmas with her ex-boyfriends over and over. The suit claims that “a few months after the pitch meeting,” Ebbs told Grossbard and Rosenblum that that they “had given the idea considerable thought, but said they were passing because the story might not be best for ABC Family.” That would have been the end of it except that in December 2011 ABC Family aired The 12 Dates Of Christmas. The TV movie was executive produced by Miller, who was no longer at ABC. “There are a considerable number of similarities between the Plaintiffs’ Idea and the ABC Family television movie, The 12 Dates Of Christmas,” claims the complaint. Of course, the fact that the Plaintiffs themselves refer to their idea as “a girl’s version of Groundhog Day” and that I Hate Christmas itself has elements that are derivative of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol isn’t going to make their argument for originality easy. Attorney Stephen Goldberg represents Grossbard and Rosenblum.
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