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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Author of ‘The Reader’ Wants a Cut From Film

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Bernard Schlink, author of the "The Reader," claims The Weinstein Co. has not paid him Dime One in royalties from the movie version, which made more than $100 million at the box office.

Schlink demands an accounting and $1 million in damages, plus interest, from The Weinstein Company, in his Superior Court complaint.

Schlink and his publisher, Diogenes Verlag, say they sold the movie rights to the book to Miramax for $1.5 million in 1998. "The Reader" has been translated into 39 languages, according to the complaint.

It adds: "A film of the same name based on 'The Reader' was subsequently produced and/or financed and/or distributed by The Weinstein Company without the plaintiffs receiving any notice that the rights to produce an/or finance and/or distribute the film had been assigned by Miramax. The film was distributed by The Weinstein Company and various other distributors beginning in 2008. It was an artistic and commercial success, garnering five Academy Award nominations, receiving the Academy Award for Best Actress (Kate Winslet) and grossing over $100,000,000 at the box office.

"The plaintiffs are entitled by their contract to receive from 2.5 percent to 5 percent of the gross receipts from the exploitation of the picture. To date, they have received only a single profit participation statement - from The Weinstein Company which states that no monies are due."

That's hardly likely, Schlink says.

The complaint continues: Plaintiffs believe that the statement is false in that it greatly understates the receipts, overstates the costs and expenses, and does not correctly follow the terms of their deal with Miramax. Moreover, it appears that The Weinstein Company may not have actually produced the film nor did it distribute the film in many markets, so it should not be allowed to take many of the deductions for production and distribution that are set out in the profit participation statement. They have brought this claim to recover the monies rightfully due to them and to obtain an honest accounting of the distribution of the film. ...

"Although there is a statement in the Miramax Agreement that the terms 'adjusted gross receipts, cash break-even and initial actual break-even shall be defined, computed, accounted and paid in accordance with Miramax's standard definitions thereof subject to good faith negotiation,' 'Miramax's standard definitions' were never disclosed to plaintiffs nor did any good faith negotiations over the definitions of those terms ever take place," according to the complaint.

The Weinstein brothers, Bob and Harvey, parted ways with Disney-owned Miramax in 2005. "The Reader" was produced and released in 2008 by The Weinstein Co.

Schlink accuses The Weinstein Co. of using accounting tricks to, among other things, underreport theatrical, overseas and home video receipts and overstate production costs.

He adds that the movie was partly bankrolled by a subsidy from the German government, "a fact that defendants did not disclose in either their negotiations with plaintiffs or in the report of contingent compensation due."

Schlink claims the production company also overstated the costs of marketing and releasing the film.

"The defendants' concealment as alleged in this complaint was approved and ratified by one or more senior managers of defendants, including but not limited to Harvey Weinstein and Bob Weinstein," the complaint states.

The Weinsteins are not named as individual defendants.

Schlink seeks an accounting and damages for breach of contract, fraudulent concealment, money had and received, and breach of implied contract.

A spokesperson at the Weinstein Co. could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Schlink is represented by Joseph Hart, whose law firm did not respond to a request for an interview.

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