LOS ANGELES (CN) - In a "brazen theft," Disney and ABC TV swiped two producers' idea for a Christmas movie called "I Hate Christmas," and broadcast the knockoff under a different title, the producers claim in court.
Beth Grossbard and Barri Rosenblum sued The Walt Disney Co. its affiliates ABC and ABC Family and its former director of development Beth Miller, in Superior Court.
The producers, both of whom describe themselves as Hollywood veterans, claim there are striking similarities between an idea they pitched to Miller in 2005, and "12 Dates of Christmas," which aired six years later, and for which Miller served as executive producer.
Grossbard specializes in producing Christmas-theme movies and pitched the idea "as a girl's version of the film 'Groundhog's Day' with its own unique twist," the complaint states.
The producers say they hand-delivered an eight-page outline, or "treatment," to an executive at ABC Family. They say the treatment was by nonparty screenwriter Denise Gruska, based on an idea by nonparty Barri Evins.
Despite her initial enthusiasm for the project, at their Dec. 13, 2005, pitch meeting, Miller rejected it a few months later, according to the complaint.
However, "On or about early December 2011, plaintiffs discovered that ABC was airing a television movie called 'The 12 Dates of Christmas' on December 11, 2011 on ABC Family cable television channel," according to the complaint. "Defendant Miller, while no longer an ABC executive, was credited as 'executive producer' of the movie who was responsible for its development and production."
Grossbard and Rosenblum say there are a "considerable number of similarities" between "I Hate Christmas" and "12 Dates."
Both stories are set on Christmas Eve, feature a heroine who plans to marry a man who is a mismatch, and use the device of repeating Christmas day over and over until the heroine learns from her mistakes.
"The repeated time rewind device in both stories is a shpritz of perfume given the heroine by a black ladies room attendant in plaintiffs' story and by a black department store saleswoman in 'The 12 Dates of Christmas,' a duplication of a unique plot mechanism which cannot be merely coincidental," the complaint states.
It adds: "Indeed, the ABC television movie, 'The 12 Dates of Christmas,' is nothing more than a hijacking of the idea which was originally pitched by plaintiffs to defendants and the treatment which was given to ABC executives by the plaintiffs, cloned and rewritten in a crude attempt to conceal the brazen theft of the idea."
The plaintiffs seek an accounting, a constructive trust and compensatory and exemplary damages for breach of implied-in-fact contract and breach of confidence.
They are represented by Stephen Goldberg.
Disney told Courthouse News it does not comment on pending litigation.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.