Intertainment widens case against Franchise

Action includes new lawsuits to be filed next month

BERLIN — German film group Intertainment is widening its $100 million case against Franchise Pictures to include lawsuits against Comerica Bank, as well as Los Angeles-based WorldWide Film Completion and Film Finances.

CEO Rudiger Baeres announced the news Tuesday at the group’s general meeting in Munich.

Intertainment is suing Franchise for allegedly inflating budgets on 10 films by $100 million. Baeres said Franchise’s actions had been possible only with the cooperation of Comerica Bank and, depending on the project, either WorldWide Film Completion or Film Finances.

“The companies worked hand-in-hand to massively damage another business — Intertainment — and to enrich themselves,” Baeres alleged.

New suits pending

Intertainment filed the lawsuit against Franchise in a Los Angeles federal court in 2000, after the companies inked a co-production deal the previous year. The new suits likely will be filed next month.

Franchise remains under criminal investigation by the FBI, which is examining the fraud allegations.

Intertainment also released preliminary second-quarter figures showing revenues of between x8.5 million and x9.5 million ($8.57 million and $9.58 million) this year, down from $10 million in 2001. Pre-tax profits, last year at $2 million, are expected to remain in the black.

Company said the results were achieved through sales of film packages to the U.K., Eastern Europe and Germany, where TeleMunchen Group earlier this month bought terrestrial and pay TV rights to five pics, including “The Whole Nine Yards” and “The Art of War.”

Half-year sales will reach between $11 million and $12 million, compared with $14.5 million last year.

Company’s latest project, the $65 million Samuel L. Jackson starrer “Blackout,” is due to start shooting next month in San Francisco.

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