Alleging that he has yet to see a dime in profit from 10-year-old Oscar-winning film "The English Patient," producer Saul Zaentz has sued Miramax and Disney, saying he's owed at least $20 million.
In his suit, filed in L.A. Superior Court on Thursday, Zaentz alleges that while the pic grossed $232 million at the worldwide box office, it has still not recouped its $35 million budget according to Miramax's books.
Zaentz settled a similar suit in August 2005 against New Line; he'd alleged that the studio had not properly accounted for revenues of its "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. While terms of that settlement were undisclosed, court papers revealed that even before the settlement, Zaentz had received $168 million from New Line as part of the deal for the film rights to the J.R.R. Tolkien tomes.
In the "Patient" suit, Zaentz claims, "Like Enron, Tyco and WorldCom, Miramax has used fraudulent and unfair accounting and business practices to deprive plaintiff of its profit participation." Miramax, plaintiff adds, "contends that it has not yet recouped the costs and expenses incurred in connection with the acquisition, distribution and marketing of the picture."
A rep for Miramax had not reviewed the suit but said the studio normally does not comment on pending litigation.
Zaentz's attorney, Brian Wolf of Lavely & Singer, said the suit comes after years of discussions with Miramax and Disney about "Patient" profits, including an audit of the film's books completed last year.
"The parties have spent the better part of a year going over accounting and auditing issues and have not been able to reach an agreement," he said.
According to the original "Patient" acquisition agreement between Miramax and Zaentz, the studio paid $27.5 million toward the pic's production budget and agreed to give Zaentz 10%-15% of adjusted gross receipts and 60% of net profits.
Besides an initial advance of $2.5 million, Wolf said Zaentz's production company hadn't "received a dime" from the film.
Complaint alleges that Miramax failed to accurately report revenues, including box office and homevid, and wrongly charged distrib fees.