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Ingram Won&#39;t Ship <I>Gospel of John</I>

2 Apr, 2004 By: Brendan Howard

The Passion of the Christ isn't the only movie about Jesus that is making people hot under the collar.

The Christian publisher Thomas Nelson is suing Visual Bible in federal court in Nashville, Tenn., arguing that the company doesn't have the right to mass-market the film The Gospel of John, due April 6.

One distributor, Ingram Entertainment, has told its customers it won't be shipping the title.

“Ingram Entertainment does not wish to be involved in the legal dispute, and that is why we've taken the action we have, which is to refer our customers to Visual Bible, to tell them we can't ship the product due to a dispute between those two parties,” said company president David Ingram.

The Toronto-based Visual Bible has been selling the title through direct marketing on the Web and elsewhere for months.

Thomas Nelson is requesting a preliminary injunction on mass-market distribution and sales of the title at a hearing slated for April 20. The company ultimately wants a permanent injunction, the master tape of the film to distribute and compensatory damages.

An agreement established several years ago gave Thomas Nelson home video distribution rights to The Gospel of John and two other films, according to Thomas Nelson's general counsel Frank Wentworth.

John Hicks, an attorney for Visual Bible, said that contract doesn't apply to The Gospel of John because it was with Visual Bible Inc., a subsidiary of the parent company handling the film, Visual Bible International. In any case, he argues, the agreement had expired March 31, 2003.

At press time, Ingram was the only company to halt shipping on the title. Steve Scavelli, president of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Flash Distributors, said Visual Bible had promised them documents soon that would indemnify Flash and its customers in the legal battle. VPD, Waxworks, Navarre and Baker & Taylor are also going ahead with shipping, according to Visual Bible's PR and communications manager, Daphna Nussbaum.

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