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MOZARK, MTM IN ‘SHADE’ FLAP

Producers Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason and their Mozark Productions Inc. have filed suit against MTM Enterprises Inc., alleging it sold off-network rights for “Evening Shade” to its sister company, the Family Channel, at below market price.

The complaint mirrors other recent suits claiming that related companies are giving preferential treatment to one another when making deals.

The producers, in a complaint filed Wednesday in L.A. Superior Court, claimed MTM “secretly sold” the series to the Family Channel to gain a hit for the cable web and to avoid paying the plaintiffs millions of dollars, which would have been owed if the series had been syndicated through more traditional channels, the suit claims.

Both companies are owned by International Family Entertainment Inc., which is also named a defendant.

Under agreements negotiated between 1988 and 1990, according to the suit, MTM agreed to finance and exploit the series.

The show was sold to CBS, with MTM retaining certain foreign and domestic syndie rights, the suit said. Over four years, 100 episodes were produced.

The contract, according to the complaint, called for Mozark to receive $25,000 per episode if MTM was able to get more than $525,000 per episode in U.S. syndication.

The lawsuit alleges that MTM’s initial attempt at syndication was “overly aggressive,” with proposed license fees totaling more than $1.5 million per episode for terms up to eight years. The suit says this “was rejected by all potential buyers.”

After IFE bought MTM in 1993, the series was withdrawn from sale, the complaint claims. Chuck Larson, then president of MTM syndication, held a series of talks with the producers, CBS, and reps of actor Burt Reynolds to discuss syndication.

It was then agreed that MTM would directly consult with Mozark and Reynolds and get approval of marketing decisions. Mozark and Reynolds agreed to pay for a marketing consultant, the suit states.

Despite that, MTM allegedly used an inexperienced person to sell the series and then canceled syndication con-tracts after getting clearance in only 60% of U. S. markets. After that, the company secretly sold the show to Fam-ily Channel for an unlimited number of showings over a seven-year period for $125,000 per episode, according to the complaint.

The complaint seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

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