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Totally ’80s Studio Lawsuits
The 1982 film “Young Doctors in Love,” a spoof of long-running soap opera “General Hospital,” faded quickly, but a legal battle over the film rages on.
Michael Elias, who wrote the film’s screenplay, sued Walt Disney Co. last month in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The scribe claimed he and a class of fellow writers, actors, directors and producers were shortchanged on their cut of royalties from Disney’s home video catalogue.
One day after Elias sued Disney, Martin Elfland, the producer behind the 1983 Richard Gere vehicle “An Officer and a Gentleman,” filed an almost identical lawsuit against Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. regarding home video royalties.
These two new lawsuits over how studios doled out early home video royalties comes after similar lawsuits settled against the other big movie studios Universal Studios Inc., 21st Century Fox Inc., Paramount Pictures Corp. and Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.
The Universal case was the first to settle, with plaintiffs and their lawyers collecting $26 million.
The premise behind each of these lawsuits harkens back to the early days of home entertainment. When U.S. consumers first started buying VCR’s in the early 1980s, the studios used outside companies to turn their movies into video cassettes. The outside companies almost universally took home 80 percent of the home video profits, leaving the studios with 20 percent.
The studios then changed course and began making video cassettes in-house. But according to the complaint, the studios maintained the royalty calculation off 20 percent of the profits figure. The artists in these lawsuits claim that is a breach of the contract they signed regarding royalties.
Douglas Johnson and Neville Johnson, based in Beverly Hills, are the lawyers behind these royalty cases.
Warner Bros. declined to comment, and messages left with Disney were not returned.
Staff reporter Matthew Blake can be reached at email@example.com or (323) 556-8332.
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