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: The Ladd Company Vs. Warner Bros  ( 5653 )
Bounty Killer
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« : August 14, 2007, 11:49:15 PM »

This seems to be yet another interesting story to add to the history of Once Upon A Time In America.  I came upon a few recent articles which detailed a lawsuit filed by Alan Ladd Jr. against Warner Bros.

Alan Ladd Jr., son of actor Alan Ladd, was an influential Hollywood film executive.  He was president of 20th Century Fox during the 1970's.  During his tenure as president of 20th Century Fox, he is remembered as the executive that was willing to back George Lucas and allow him to make Star Wars.  Obviously the decision would almost become career defining, as Star Wars would become successful beyond anyone’s imagination.   After Ladd left his position with 20th Century Fox, he founded his own film and production company, The Ladd Company, in 1979.  Through The Ladd Company, Ladd would be involved in the production and/or distribution of various films in the 1980's to the present.  Some of the films the company served as producer and distributor are: Body Heat, Outland and Night Shift.  The company produced The Right Stuff and Blade Runner.  In 1984, Arnan Milchan produced Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In America.  However, The Ladd Company was the distributor, and responsible for the promotion and releasing of the film through Warner Bros. After The Right Stuff had been a box office failure, the company languished for a while until almost a decade later when it found success in producing Braveheart for Paramount Pictures.  Ladd won an Academy Award as the producer of that film.

The lawsuit between Ladd and Warner Bros has been four years in the making.  It centered on the amount of revenues and royalties which Ladd felt the studio did not pay his production/distribution company after the selling of the broadcast rights of specific films to various television outlets.  Apparently the films are sold by the studio in licensing packages to television and cable companies.  According to Variety in an article on August 2nd, “Ladd and Jay Kanter, his partner in the Ladd Co., claimed that when 11 of their films, including Blade Runner, Body Heat, Chariots of Fire, Night Shift and the Police Academy movies were licensed to the domestic and international television and cable market, they were packaged with inferior films and the fees attributed to their films were unfairly under-allocated.”  Another rather disturbing claim was that the studio actually omitted The Ladd Company logo from the packaging of DVD releases of several films from 1997 to 2003.  The films included in this allegation were such titles as Chariots Of Fire, The Right Stuff and..... Once Upon A Time In America.  The studio claimed this was an oversight and that specifically in the case of OUATIA, it was corrected early on in the production of the DVD.

Two weeks ago, on August 2nd, a Los Angeles jury ruled against Warner Bros and awarded Alan Ladd Jr. and Jay Kanter 3.2 million dollars.  Warner Bros issued a couple of statements indicating they would appeal the decision, and that it was only the first battle in what is expected to be a long legal war.

I definitely do not agree with the unintentional or intentional exclusion of any production or artistic credit from any work.  Certainly within a free market, everyone should receive their proper due.  Warner Bros and The Ladd Company were the two entities which were at the center of the editing tragedy of OUATIA.  I guess to this day, both companies point the finger at each other as to who is most responsible for the editing travesty that stigmatized the film and resulted in its box office failure.  In light of what happened to OUATIA and Sergio Leone, it’s ironic that now both companies are going at each other, disputing the level of profit and royalties each feels it’s entitled to in regards to the licensing and television sales of some of these old films.

« : August 15, 2007, 12:27:03 AM Noodles_SlowStir »

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« #1 : August 14, 2007, 11:52:09 PM »


I found articles in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Variety.

This article appeared last month in New York Times.

Producer Versus Studio In a Case of Money and Ego
David M. Halbfinger. New York Times. (Late Edition (East Coast)). New York, N.Y.: Jul 11, 2007. pg. E.1

As a studio boss in the 1970s, '80s and early '90s, Alan Ladd Jr. was admired for his taste, his relationships with top directors like George Lucas and Ridley Scott, and his laid-back management style.

Not to mention his reserve: he once responded to a long-winded movie pitch by merely saying ''No.''

Mr. Ladd -- now 69, but still known to a large swath of Hollywood as Laddie -- remains as laconic as ever in normal conversation. But he is raising his voice in a courthouse cri de coeur over a series of perceived slights by Warner Brothers, the studio with which he was a partner on films like the Oscar-winning ''Chariots of Fire,'' the science fiction classic ''Blade Runner'' and the lowbrow but hugely profitable ''Police Academy'' series.

It's quite a turnabout for Mr. Ladd, who says his production and distribution deal at Warner Brothers from 1979 to 1985 was so sweet that he could greenlight his own movies, choose the dates and theaters they would play, and even make the studio bump one of its movies for one of his.

All these years later, he is going to trial in state court here this week in a case against Warner Brothers that could focus attention on a variant of that old Hollywood bugaboo, studio accounting.

For an aging producer, and a faded movie star's son at that, this particular lawsuit -- with its overtones of credit, legacy and the deference due a lion of the industry who famously took a risk on ''Star Wars'' when no other studio would -- seems as much an existential battle as a legal one.

The crux of the dispute is how studios account for revenues from the licensing of their movies to cable and television networks here and overseas. Typically, studios negotiate package deals for scores of films, then allocate a portion of the total to each movie.

Profit participants -- usually stars, directors, producers and writers -- stand to gain or lose depending on those allocations. Mr. Ladd, for one, was entitled to a hefty 5 percent of the gross profits on a dozen movies he had made with Warner Brothers. So every penny of the bottom line credited to other movies reduced the amount available for his.

Fairness, he argues, would require a formula based on box-office results or other objective factors. Yet in one deal, he said, worthless old Tarzan movies were accounted for at $40,000 apiece. And in several packages, court filings show, Warner Brothers took the total license fee and divided it evenly among all the movies in the package, no matter how successful.

Sounding much like his late father, star of the gunfighter classic ''Shane,'' he said that he felt there was no choice but to take the studio to court. ''It just seemed wrong,'' he said. ''Either you have to sue, or you put your tail between your legs and run for the hills.''

Mr. Ladd said he believed his films had been deliberately shortchanged by Warner Brothers executives, in whose eyes he became a liability once he left the studio's fold in 1985. (He later served two stints as chairman of MGM, and produced the Oscar-winning ''Braveheart'' as well as the costly flop ''The Phantom'' in six years on the Paramount lot before becoming an independent producer in 1999.)

Lawyers for Warner Brothers declined to comment, citing the studio's policy of not discussing pending litigation. But in court the studio has indicated that Mr. Ladd was treated more than fairly. Its lawyers are expected to use television ratings, for example, to make the case that Mr. Ladd's decades-old films simply aren't as valuable these days as he might think. And Warner Brothers will argue that allocations are the result of negotiations with buyers, not unilaterally decided on by the studio.

That the two sides are actually going to trial is something of a shocker. Disputes over license-fee allocation aren't unheard of; the director William Friedkin sued Warner Brothers over revenue from ''The Exorcist'' and the producer Saul Zaentz sued MGM over ''One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,'' to name two. But both disputes, like most such cases, were settled.

And with good reason. A loss at trial could invite other plaintiffs to come forward. For Mr. Ladd, meanwhile, the case has become all-consuming and somewhat energy- sapping at a time when his attention is needed elsewhere. His next film is ''Gone, Baby, Gone,'' the first feature directed by Ben Affleck, which Miramax is distributing this fall.

Still, Mr. Ladd -- who constantly bridled at his corporate overlords when he was studio chief -- makes clear that this is an intensely personal fight.

It began, he said, when he learned that Warner Brothers had been sending another profit participant on ''Blade Runner'' royalty checks for some time. ''But they'd stopped even sending me statements,'' Mr. Ladd said. ''They said, 'The movie's so far in the red, we don't want to bother.' ''

So Mr. Ladd paid for an audit, and Warner Brothers later paid him more than $400,000 in what it called a conciliatory gesture, but Mr. Ladd only grew more incensed.

The audit also turned up millions in disputed allocations, which rang another bell with Mr. Ladd: in the early 1990s he had settled a dispute with the studio for $500,000. At the time, Mr. Ladd said, he was flush with millions from the settlement of a contract dispute with MGM, and didn't want the headache.

The last straw, Mr. Ladd said, came when he was speaking in Boston and someone asked whether he had had anything to do with ''Chariots of Fire.'' A recent DVD release of the movie, he learned, had omitted his credit from the package. The same thing happened, he said, with ''Night Shift'' and ''The Right Stuff.'' And on ''Once Upon a Time in America,'' he found, the movie itself had been altered to remove his credit. (Warner Brothers says the packages were misprints, and that omission of the credit from ''Once Upon a Time'' was corrected as soon as possible.)

''Taking someone's name off the picture -- that's very personal,'' said Mr. Ladd, whose lawyer, John Gatti, is also his son-in-law. ''My dad was No. 1 at the box office for five or six years, but he didn't work with good directors, most of his films were black and white, and he faded into the woodwork. Except for 'Shane,' it was like he was never here.''

''When they took my name off the pictures, it was like I was never here,'' he added. ''You can't take away somebody's life. That's what they're doing. It's like I never lived.''

« : August 15, 2007, 12:02:07 AM Noodles_SlowStir »

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« #2 : August 14, 2007, 11:56:46 PM »


From the Los Angeles Times this month on court decision:

Ladd Co. wins case against Warner
By Josh Friedman, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 3, 2007

Oscar-winning producer Alan Ladd Jr. and his business partner won a $3.2-million verdict Thursday in their four-year legal fight with Warner Bros. over fees from TV sales for such films as "Body Heat," the "Police Academy" comedies and "Chariots of Fire."

A Los Angeles Superior Court jury ruled that the studio shortchanged Ladd and Jay Kanter's Ladd Co. in divvying up proceeds from worldwide television deals for their movies. Other titles in the suit included "Night Shift," "Tequila Sunrise," "Blade Runner" and "Outland."

"I'm thrilled," Ladd said. "I hope that other people will start doing the same thing -- taking on the studios instead of being afraid of the big, bad bosses."

Defense attorney Michael Bergman said he would ask Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ricardo Torres to toss out the verdict.

Bergman said jurors ignored Torres' instructions by awarding damages stemming from sales before August 1999, four years before Ladd Co. filed suit, despite a statute of limitations. The verdict covered sales dating to 1992, Bergman said.

Added Warner Bros. spokesman Scott Rowe: "While we are disappointed by the jury's verdict, we understand their confusion over damages. We will now look at this entire proceeding and hope to rectify this erroneous decision at this level or on appeal."

Ladd, 69, is the son of late "Shane" star Alan Ladd. He is a veteran studio executive, serving as president of 20th Century Fox when "Star Wars" was released in 1977 and later serving as chairman of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the early 1990s.

Ladd earned an Oscar as a producer of Mel Gibson's "Braveheart," which was named best picture of 1995. He remains busy: Ladd Co.'s thriller "Gone, Baby, Gone" is coming out this fall.

Ladd Co. alleged that when Warner Bros. sold packages of several films to TV outlets, the Time Warner Inc. division "internally manipulated" the value of those deals that was allocated to each individual title for its own benefit. For example, the value of the British Olympics drama "Chariots of Fire" as 1981's Academy Award-winning best picture was not fully recognized by the studio, the plaintiffs alleged.

"Our clients were deprived what they were owed," said plaintiffs' attorney John Gatti.

During the four-week trial, Torres had dismissed a claim involving the science-fiction classic "Blade Runner" because the parties had reached a previous settlement covering that film.

Another claim involving the omission of credits for Ladd Co. on several DVDs also was tossed out, as was an antitrust allegation.

This is link to Variety article also on the court decision this month:

« : August 15, 2007, 12:07:35 AM Noodles_SlowStir »

dave jenkins
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« #3 : August 15, 2007, 09:04:37 AM »

Interesting. It should be noted that the Ladd Co. doesn't exist anymore, that when Ladd acts as a producer now he is doing so independently. I wish him well with his legal struggles, but once you go that route, you're creative life is virtually over. Suing at that level is a full-time job, it doesn't leave much time for producing.

"McFilms are commodities and, as such, must be QA'd according to industry standards."
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