Money pullout spurs cancellation

NEW YORK — Two lawsuits have been filed in the wake of the sudden cancellation of Dave Thomas’ sequel to his 1983 pic “Strange Brew.”

On July 19, Thomas reported to the Toronto set of the movie sequel to the cult film that grew out of an ongoing “Great White North” sketch on the “SCTV” series. He was to produce the new pic, “Home Brew,” as well as co-star with Rick Moranis and Dan Aykroyd for a seven-week shoot. But he had to cancel the production when the financing failed to materialize.

As a consequence of the shutdown, Thomas’ L.A.-based Maple Palm Prods. has filed a lawsuit in Toronto’s Superior Court of Justice against the MEG Media Group in Toronto, its president John Hamilton and Hamilton’s solicitor Sandro Sordi.

Countersuit

MEG has countersued, claiming that Thomas defamed the company by making false statements in a magazine interview.

The Maple Palm lawsuit charges that MEG Media defaulted after assuring Maple Palm that it would fully finance “Home Brew,” featuring Moranis and Thomas as the dimwitted, beer-swilling McKenzie brothers, who have made a comeback performing in a series of 30-second spots for Molson beer.

Moranis, Thomas and Aykroyd (in the part of Rick Ripple, a friend of the McKenzies) each signed for $1 million ($500,000 upfront and $500,000 deferred). Thomas’ Maple Palm hired Paul Flaherty as the director (Thomas and Flaherty co-authored the script), with the expectation that the movie would generate “significant revenues” through “film ticket and homevideo sales,” the soundtrack album (the McKenzies’ album “Great White North” sold more than 1 million copies in the early ’80s), plus “licensing of the characters, product placement and promotional appearances.”

Insurance jitters

In a countersuit, MEG said the insurers balked when July 19 came without a firm distribution deal for the movie in the U.S. The insurers also worried, said a statement from MEG, that “Home Brew” wouldn’t be “profitable” because of “the limited, regional appeal of the film concept,” generating “minimal opportunities to attract large audiences” among “the current moviegoing demographic.”

In response, Maple Palm’s suit said MEG’s Hamilton guaranteed that he would “obtain insurance to guarantee the financing” of the movie, choosing Stirling Cooke Brown, a “well-known and respected” firm based in London.

Hamilton also alleged he told Maple Palm that he was working on a deal with Motion Picture Corp. of America to use “Home Brew” as one of the 12 pictures in a theatrical-output deal MPCA has with MGM, which insures that each of the 12 will get a “minimum 1,000-screen release in the U.S.,” according to Thomas’ suit. MGM had produced and distributed “Strange Brew” in 1983.

International distribution

Also in the works was a deal in which Hamilton would hire the Los Angeles-based distributor CineTel Films to distribute “Home Brew” to countries outside North America, the Maple Palm suit said. CineTel would collect a fee of 10% of the foreign sales. If the movie recouped its costs, a 25% deferred fee would kick in, “to be split between Maple Palm and MEG on the one hand and CineTel on the other,” in the words of the Thomas suit.

Maple Palm and MEG tried to avoid a lawsuit by drawing up a settlement agreement. But, before the parties signed it, MEG rescinded the agreement Aug. 5, claiming that Thomas had “slandered” MEG through “defamatory” statements made in an interview with the Canadian biweekly magazine Playback.

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