A week after The Weinstein Company went after Open Road and the producers of the upcoming Playmobil movie over who actually has the right to distribute the animated pic, the other side hit back – and they’re not playing around.
“There was never any contract with TWC,” says a cross-complaint (read it here) filed today by producers Moritz Borman and Dimitri Rassam and their respective companies in Los Angeles Superior Court. “TWC launched this controversy, masking its current financial instability by filing a strike suit with no written license attached,” the eight-page filing claims, also calling the whole matter a case “about a failed movie license negotiation which cratered.”
It goes on to claim that “the producers learned the production lending bank for the Project would neither trust nor accept as collateral a promise from TWC to pay a minimum guarantee, due to the bank’s negative perception about TWC’s disintegrating liquidity.”
“Continuing with negotiations …with TWC became a futile exercise because of the myriad open points, TWC’s inability or refusal to document points consistent with the prior negotiations, and the non-bankable nature of any promise by TWC to pay its minimum guarantee,” the cross-complaint goes on to say. “No party ever signed anything.”
Before all this hit the courts, it was announced May 12 that Open Road had picked up U.S. distribution rights to the forthcoming Playmobil movie. Among the exhibits provided with today’s complaint, the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Schumer, Kristen Wiig, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogan, Jack Black, Tina Fey, Julia Roberts and Kate Winslet were on the cast list as possible voice-over candidates.
On May 31, TWC pulled back the veil with the filing citing breach of contract, promissory estoppel and other claims to have the court assert its right to the movie based on the toy brand or pay out big damages. “The Producer Defendants materially breached the Agreement by retracting their promise to sell TWC the Playmobil Movie distribution rights and refusing to negotiate a written deal memo (the “Deal Memo”) in good faith,” said the dense filing detailing pitches, meetings, conversations, negotiations and emails with phrases like “we are closed” written by CAA brass. TWC says they put up a $10 million minimum guarantee as a part of the deal under discussion earlier this spring. They also say they would get the film, which had to released by August 31, 2019, on “at least 2,000 screens simultaneously” after paying out “at least $25 million in advertising and promotion.”
“TWC retreats to end run fallbacks like ‘promissory estoppel’ because it cannot attach a purported written license agreement since none exists,” the declaratory relief document filed today says. “None of these end runs meets the strict requirements of the United States Copyright Act. TWC filed its strike suit solely to try to get paid off, targeting two people and three companies TWC knows full well never would have been the licensers. TWC never received a signed transfer from any actual owner or licensor containing all the material terms in one writing because finishing the many moving open points became meaningless due to the financing bank’s perception of TWC’s dubious liquidity.”
Under the TWC scenario, everything actually looked great until April 13, when the plug was pulled over the company supposedly not responding fast enough to concerns by the producers about Weinstein talking to a French bank about providing a letter of credit. “Upon information and belief,” TWC’s complaint of last month said, that termination “was merely a pretext for breaking off negotiations so that the Producer Defendants could sell the distribution rights for the Playmobil Movie to another buyer.”
With Borman and Rassam seeking a court declaration, jury trial and costs against TWC, the courts will now get in the game.
Joseph Taylor, Kim Zeldin and Nathan Davis of Los Angeles firm Liner LLP are representing the Playmobil producers in the matter. TWC is represented by David Boies, David Zifkin and Karen Chesley of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP.