The Weinstein Company has been sued by the co-fi company (and subsidiary) of FilmNation, which financed the Michael Keaton-starring The Founder. The lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court claims that the subsidiary, Speedee Distribution, had an agreement that no film would be released within a week before or after the biopic about Ray Kroc. Speedee — a single purpose entity established by FilmNation — put up most of the $25 million total budget for the film. It was that entity that sealed an agreement with The Weinstein Company in February 2015.
In the court filing (read it here), Speedee (FilmNation) said it is suing for $15M in damages plus costs and interest because TWC released The Founder wide on January 20 (pushed from August and November of 2015), and then released the Matthew McConaughey-starring biopic Gold on January 27 through its TWC-Dimension label. The Founder had a limited release on December 7, and Gold had limited release on December 30.
Neither limited release date was considered competitive, the suit states. However, the company is taking issue with the wide releases only seven days apart. “Despite the blackout period, TWC released Gold on Jan. 27th, in breach thereof.”
According to the suit, first reported by the New York Daily News, “The Founder and Gold both appeal to the same audience. At all relevant times, the two films have been marketed to potential moviegoers in the same way … conveying an effective binary choice to the viewer: to see one movie or the other.” They point to, as evidence, newspaper ads for both films that ran on opposite pages of The New York Times touting the true story elements of both.
TWC sees it differently. “The Weinstein Company did not breach its contract and it will defend itself vigorously in court,” Attorney Evan Chesler at Cravath.
The agreement between TWC and FilmNation/Speedee Distribution called for liquidated damages that both parties agreed would be appropriate if there was a breach, the companies’ lawyer Jim Janowitz at Pryor Cashman told Deadline.
“In the event of a breach, the agreement required TWC to pay Speedee liquidated damages in the amount equal to the greater of … the amount TWC actually spent on any post-production Prints and Advertising (P&A) commitment, and $15,000,000. The $15,000,000 amount of liquidated damages was derived based on TWC’s obligation under the agreement to spend a minimum of $10,000,000 on P&A cost,” the suit states.
The Founder has grossed $10.19M after 20 days in release and Gold has grossed $6.57M in 12 days. According to ComScore’s PostTrak, which polls throughout a film’s opening weekend, The Founder was 55% men and 45% women with 89% over 25 years of age with 75% Caucasian and 13% Hispanic. Gold was 51% men and 49% women with 88% over 25 years old and 69% Caucausian and 12% Hispanic.
A TWC spokesperson said: “The dating of Gold was determined by the TWC Dimension team. The Founder will ultimately do comparable numbers at the box office to other critically acclaimed films released this past year including Jackie, Nocturnal Animals, Loving and many others.” Jackie has grossed $12.92M in 10 weeks, Nocturnal Animals, $10.66M in 11, and Loving, $7.71M in 12.
Manchester By The Sea has grossed $44.1M after 12 weeks in release, Fences $52.9M after eight, Moonlight $19.6M after 16 and Patriot’s Day, $30.4M after seven.