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Universal Settles Home Video Royalties Lawsuit

1 May, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has reached a $26 million settlement with plaintiffs who alleged they were denied millions of dollars in royalties generated from the home video and electronic sellthrough sales of select 1970s theatrical movies re-distributed decades later by Universal, Paramount Home Media Distribution and other studios.

A hearing on the proposed settlement is slated for July 15 in Los Angeles Superior Court. The suit with Paramount and others apparently will continue, according to Deadline.com, which first reported the settlement.

Universal agreed to pay $13 million into a “settlement fund” to compensate “recouped class members,” and another $13 million into an “accounting relief fund” to compensate “un-recouped class members.”

In the Jan. 16, 2013 suit, a company representing late director Colin Higgins (Foul Play, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas), the trustee of Charles Bronson’s estate (Hard Times) and director Stanley Donen (Lucky Lady) claimed 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 said 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 home entertainment-based revenue generated by Paramount.

“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 original suit stated. “Instead, Paramount wrongly keeps this money.”

Foul Play with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase was re-released in widescreen on disc Nov. 16, 2004, by Paramount; The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas with Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds was re-released Sept. 7, 2010, by Universal; Hard Times with Charles Bronson, released April 6, 1999, by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, and Lucky Lady with Gene Hackman and Liza Minnelli, was originally released by 20th Century Fox. Lady was re-released on DVD Feb. 1, 2011, by Shout! Factory.

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