LOS ANGELES (CN) - Distributors bundled the movie "First Dog" with less valuable films and sold it for less than a third of what it's worth, the film's producer claims in court.
In 2010, First American Cinema entered into distribution deals for "First Dog" with Maitland Primrose Group and (nonparty) Moving Pictures Film and Television, the producer claims in Superior Court.
"First Dog" is about a foster child who befriends a stray dog named Teddy, who belongs to the president of the United States. The president and first lady are played by Julia Roberts' brother and sister-in-law, Eric and Eliza Roberts.
"When distribution of the film began, defendants 'straight-lined' the licensed films to all sublicensees in a package," First American claims.
"In the unlawful practice known as straight lining, every feature film is that package is given the exact same value regardless of its value to the sublicensee, resulting in more valuable films being undersold," the lawsuit states. "This practice was found to be fraudulent under the decision in Alan Ladd, Jr. v. Warner Bros. Entertainment."
Where the film wasn't straight-lined, First American says the distributors sold it for far less than it's worth.
"The film was ultimately sold for less than one-third of the lowest end of the original estimated value of the film provided by defendants themselves," the producer claims.
Arnold Peter, attorney for First American founder and writer-director Bryan Stoller, said the defendants "have substantially diminished the value of Mr. Stoller's film by packaging it with a group of titles in disparate categories and underselling the film in multiple markets at an arbitrary licensing fee."
First American also accuses the distributors of misreporting sales, "either by underreporting the amount defendants have received for the sales or by not reporting the sale whatsoever."
It cites Redbox as an example, saying the distributors licensed the film to Redbox but reported just 2,416 DVDs sold to all vendors. When Stoller bumped into a purchasing director for Redbox at an industry convention, he says he learned that Redbox had purchased far more "First Dog" DVDs than reported. Redbox allegedly ordered 30,000 DVDs, resulting in 417,000 rentals.
The distributors similarly licensed or sublicensed the movie to 7-Eleven, Netflix, Vudu, iTunes and Publisher's Clearinghouse without reporting any sales, the producer claims. They also struck royalty deals in Russia, Germany, New Zealand and Australia without reporting foreign royalties, and licensed the film to a distributor in Latin America for longer than their contract allowed, according to the lawsuit.
First American is suing Maitland Primrose Group and its successors - ICAP Media, ICAP North America and Screen Media Ventures - for breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, and unfair competition.
It claims it incurred damages of more than $48,000 from the defendants' "fraudulent accounting methods," and is owed another $58,000 in outstanding licensing fees.
It also seeks an order forcing the defendants to account for all their sales from licensing the film.
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