Producer-director Bryan Michael Stoller’s First American Cinema has filed a lawsuit charging that the international and home entertainment distributors of his movie First Dog breached contract, failed to pay him the money he had coming and committed accounting fraud. In the process, he alleges they lowered the future potential value of his movie about a foster boy who befriends a dog gone missing from the White House.
Stoller filed suit in L.A. Superior Court against Maitland Primrose Group, ICAP Media and Screen Media Ventures for at least $600,000, plus punitive damages and legal fees.
The suit charges First Dog got “straight lined,” which means it was sold as part of a package of movies, with each film being given the same value when it came time to account for the back end on the movies. Such a practice potentially allows distributors to undercut the true value of the more prized films in a package.
Stroller points to the legal victory by producer Alan Ladd Jr. in a "straight lining" battle over whether Warner Bros. had underallocated license fees to films like Blade Runner, Chariots of Fire and the Police Academy movies.
The First Dog producer believes he got similar treatment. He alleges the defendants sold the movie in many markets for less than it was worth and less than they had promised when Stoller made the deal. The suit says it was sold for “less than one-third of the lowest end of the original estimated value provided by the defendants themselves.”
Stroller also says the accounting statements were troubling. He alleges that he'd see a statement listing a certain amount for a sale, but that later statements would credit a lesser amount. For instance, in June 2011 a report said the film had been licensed to M-Net for more than $34,000. However in a report on Nov. 30, the value was listed at only $5,000. “Since producer reports are cumulative,” says the suit, “these numbers should never decrease.”
He's also disputing deals made by the distributors that licensed the movie for longer than the agreed-upon 12 years in the original contract. The movie was also licensed to third parties in violation of the contract, charges the lawsuit.
Ultimately, says the suit, the defendants stopped sending any statements.
A court-ordered conference on the case is scheduled for February 2013.
Stoller is represented by Arnold Peter, Maurice Pessah and Marcus Lee of the Peter Law Group in L.A.
There was no response to an attempt to get comment from Screen Media Ventures.