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‘Batman’ plaintiffs say contract shows intent

A clause that would have provided “Batman” co-executive producers Benjamin Melniker and Michael Uslan with a share of the boffo pic’s “gross receipts” was in the original contract with Casablanca Films, according to evidence entered in the “Batman” contract case in Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday.

Melniker’s attorney, Tom Girardi, introduced the clause at the end of the day to show “intent” on the part of Casablanca to include Melniker and Uslan in the gross receipts.

Melniker and Uslan, who originally optioned “Batman” from DC Comics, are suing Warner Bros. and Polygram Pictures for $ 8 million for shutting them out of producer roles and out of gross receipts on the pic. (The B.O. figure used in court is $ 300 million, but Daily Variety estimates the film made $ 411 million worldwide.)

The pair, operating as Batfilms Inc., argued that under a contract with Casablanca (which later became Polygram Pictures), they were entitled to a 40% share of whatever Casablanca received. Batfilms claims Casablanca, under Peter Guber’s helm, then cut a secret deal with Warner to leave Melniker and Uslan out and to share in the “gross receipts.”

The case has focused on whether Melniker and Uslan are entitled to share in the “gross receipts” or the “net profits.” According to earlier testimony, “Batman” has yet to make any net profits.

Melniker said in testimony Wednesday that he and Uslan were forced to become exec producers and accept the “net profits” deal or be shut out entirely by Warners exec James Miller.

According to the contract introduced in court Thursday, if the original producer, Universal, bowed out and Casablanca took over financing the pic, then Melniker and Uslan’s company, Batfilms, would be entitled to 15% of the gross receipts, after negative costs were covered and a $ 5 million payment was made to Casablanca.

That became moot because Warners actually took over the film. But Girardi said after the court session that it was crucial to introduce the original Universal exit clause because “they should see the intent involved.”

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