MGM, Kurosawa settle ‘Seven’

If MGM wants to do another remake of Akira Kurosawa’s legendary classic “The Seven Samurai” (1954), it’s going to have to do it as a Western under the terms of a new settlement.

The lion-maned studio settled its long-running dispute with Japanese helmer Kurosawa and writers of the pic, agreeing on a division of sequel and remake rights to the classic, but for MGM, “only in the Western genre.”

MGM’s end of the pact takes into account Yul Brynner’s 1960 remake of Kurosawa’s pic, “The Magnificent Seven.” Though not specified in writing, the settlement clearly supports MGM’s claim to the Brynner pic. It also allows for three other sequels in the Western genre, “Return of the Seven” (1966), “The Guns of the Magnificent Seven” (1969) and “The Magnificent Seven Ride Again” ( 1972).

Kurosawa’s attorney Jeffrey Graubart said in a news release that MGM dropped its claim in Los Angeles Superior Court against Toho Co., Kurosawa Production K.K., and writers Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni and Shinobu Hashimoto.

The studio had sued in 1991 on behalf of late director John Sturges, claiming all remake and sequel rights to the pic, which was acquired in 1958 from Toho by MGM’s predecessor, Yul Brynner’s Alciona Co.

Under the settlement, Kurosawa and the writers retain ownership to the copyright and all other rights to the screenplay of “The Seven Samurai.” Toho retains its ownership and copyright rights in the motion pic, and MGM and Sturges are entitled to make sequels and remakes of the screenplay for TV and feature production, “but only in the Western genre.”

All other remake and sequel rights are reserved to Kurosawa Production and the writers. Additionally, Toho agreed to pay MGM $ 50,000 on the claim. The bickering over the pic dates back to 1978, when a Tokyo district court determined that Kurosawa and the other writers granted a “one-picture license” to produce “Seven Samurai,” with no sequel or remake rights. MGM cried foul, but didn’t sue until 1991.

Two other separate actions, filed in 1992 by Kurosawa’s camp, are also being dismissed concurrent with the Los Angeles Superior Court dismissals.

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