Producer Saul Zaentz has sued distributor Miramax and its former owner, the Walt Disney Co., for $20 million, claiming the defendants hid profits to the Oscar-winning drama The English Patient.
The action, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that a prolonged scheme existed between Miramax (run during this earlier phase by founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein) and Disney to hide the film's $300 million in profits, paying Zaentz's company a mere $5 million over time. (The Weinsteins are not parties to the lawsuit.)
Released in 1996, The English Patient grossed $232 million at the worldwide box office on a production spend of $27 million -- and made many more millions on VHS and DVD.
The suit, filed by Levely & Singer, says that an audit of Miramax's books revealed multiple acts of self-dealing and unfair business practices designed to ensure that the amount of the true gross receipts generated from the exploitation of 'The English Patient' would be artificially manipulated and understated....
The suit further alleges that the distribution expenses, distribution fees, interest charges, and other fees and deductions charged by Miramax against the gross receipts were exaggerated, misapplied and falsified.
Miramax and Disney thereby contrived to keep the picture in a paper loss position so that no matter how much money 'The English Patient' earned, Miramax and Disney would reap all of the profits....
The case revisits an earlier suit Zaentz filed against Miramax in Superior Court in late 2006.
That case was removed to Federal Court, before being dismissed.
Calls for comment from the contending parties were not immediately returned.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.