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Studios Sued Over Home Video Royalties

16 Jan, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Four home entertainment studios have been sued by plaintiffs alleging they were denied millions of dollars in royalties generated from the home video sales of Foul Play, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, Hard Times and Lucky Lady.

The breach of contract suits, filed separately Jan. 16 in Los Angeles Superior Court, allege Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment paid royalties based on only 20% of home entertainment revenue — a policy incorporated after the films were released.

In their class-action suits, a company representing late director Colin Higgins (Foul Play, Whorehouse), the trustee of Charles Bronson’s estate (Hard Times) and director Stanley Donen (Lucky Lady) claim they should have been paid royalties based on 100% of the movies’ home video sales.

Studios at the time did not have separate home entertainment divisions since the market was still in its infancy. As a result, home video royalties were paid based on a retroactive flat 20% industry rate mandated years later.

The complaint — common to the other suits — says Higgins’ contract with Paramount stipulated the director be paid based on 100% of the films’ gross receipts, which it says should also include 100% of revenue generated by Paramount Home Entertainment.

“As a result, 80% of income derived from home video distribution is not being credited as income to the plaintiff … when Paramount accounts to profit participants,” the suit reads. “Instead, Paramount wrongly keeps this money.”

Foul Play (Paramount) was released in 1978 starring Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase and Burgess Meredith. Whorehouse (Universal) was released in 1982; Hard Times, starring Charles Bronson, was released in 1974, and Lucky Lady in 1975, starring Burt Reynolds, Liza Minnelli and Gene Hackman.

The suits seek unspecified damages and a jury trial.

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