California Lawsuit Claims Paramount Pictures Cheated Producer of Star-Studded Film 'Middle Men'
By Mark Annick
Producer contends film studio failed to honor distribution, promotion obligations; kept cable, streaming profits
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 7, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The producer of the major motion picture "Middle Men" has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Paramount Pictures based on claims the studio failed to properly distribute and promote the movie in order to depress box office receipts and the producer's rights to royalties. Instead, the filing claims, Paramount acquired the movie only to supplement the library it licenses to its own cable channel, EPIX, as well as to Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.
The lawsuit was filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Paramount is a subsidiary of Viacom, Inc. (NASDAQ: VIAB.)
The 2010 drama, produced by Christopher Mallick of Middle Pictures, Inc. and directed by George Gallo ("Midnight Run"), starred box office heavyweights Luke Wilson ("The Royal Tannenbaums," "Old School"), Giovanni Ribisi ("Avatar," "Ted"), and Academy Award-nominated actor James Caan ("The Godfather"). "Middle Men" tells the story of the development of online credit card billing services and the birth of internet pornography.
The lawsuit says that Middle Pictures, Inc. paid Paramount almost $7 million dollars to promote and distribute the film, but that Paramount limited the film's initial release in order to keep the distribution funds and avoid paying box office revenues. Promotion was scant, and, in its opening weekend, the film was shown on only a few screens. Barely exhibited and under-promoted by Paramount, "Middle Men" predictably failed at the box office.
The lawsuit alleges that Paramount then engaged in self-dealing by licensing the film at a discounted price to EPIX, a premium cable channel in which Paramount has a 43-percent ownership interest. Paramount further leveraged the film as an asset by making it available online through Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and video-on-demand, though the producer says it has not received its fair share of these proceeds.
"We are confident the evidence will prove that Paramount didn't promote or release this critically-acclaimed film to be a box office success. Rather, it rolled 'Middle Men' into a bundle of other Paramount products and then marketed that bundle to serve Paramount's financial interests at the expense of the independent production company that made and paid for 'Middle Men,'" says Jeffrey Simon of Dallas-based Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, PC, which represents Middle Pictures, Inc.
The lawsuit alleges that Paramount's opaque recordkeeping prevented Middle Pictures from determining how much of its money Paramount spent on marketing and distributing the film. In addition, the producer says a forensic audit, while incomplete due to Paramount's refusal to supply data, shows that Paramount owes it more than $7 million to date in unpaid revenues generated through both cable viewership and streaming, a number that represents only a fraction of the total damages in the case.
The case is Middle Pictures, Inc., v. Paramount Pictures Corporation, et al., No. BC 633213.
Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, PC, is a nationally-recognized trial law firm with a reputation for creative and aggressive representation of clients in a wide variety of practice areas, including serious commercial litigation, toxic torts, and catastrophic personal injury. For more information, visit http://sgpblaw.com.
Contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or email@example.com
SOURCE Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, PC