In a case of Hollywood accounting allegedly run amok, production company MPH Entertainment claims it has been cheated out of profits on “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” — the most successful indie film of all time — with accounting statements showing the picture has lost more than $20 million.
The suit, filed Tuesday in L.A. Superior Court, names as defendants creator and star Nia Vardalos; HBO and Gold Circle, which put up financing and took cable and video and foreign distribution rights, respectively; and Playtone, Tom Hanks’ production company that produced the film. MPH is seeking damages in excess of $20 million in lost profits and damage to its reputation.
According to the complaint, Vardalos asked MPH to read her script for “Wedding” in 1997, after she appeared in “Men Seeking Women,” which was directed by MPH principal Jim Milio. MPH is best known for its television documentaries and telepics, such as “The Real Las Vegas,” “The History of Sex” and “The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt.”
Milio to helm
MPH purchased the script and agreed that Milio would direct, and Vardalos would star in the project.
When Playtone came on board, Milio bowed out in a move that led Variety to describe him as “the mensch of ‘Greek Wedding.’ ”
According to the complaint, MPH agreed to dilute its participation to 3% of actual profits as defined in Playtone’s deal, and proper credit. Milio and his two partners took a co-exec producer credit. In the lawsuit, MPH complains that the defendants — despite repeated requests — won’t even provide the definition of profits, as it applies to Playtone and hence, MPH.
MPH attorney Henry Gradstein said, “My clients gave up practically everything to help get this picture made, and all they asked for in return was a small share of the real profits and proper credit. What they received was a Big Fat Greek Tragedy.”
The suit claims that “Wedding,” which cost $5 million to make, has brought in more than $600 million, with worldwide B.O. of $365 million and revenues of $240 million from DVD/VHS sales and rentals and television license fees.
But according to the March 31 Gold Circle/HBO accounting statement, which is attached to the complaint, the film has lost $20 million and MPH is owed nothing. A Gold Circle rep noted the accounting statement did not include any homevid revenue.
MPH also alleges it was excluded from award ceremonies, festivals and press releases once the film became a phenom.
Gold Circle said in a statement: “We haven’t seen the complaint but we stand by the integrity of our accounting. It’s ludicrous to suggest that this film will not be profitable. MPH Entertainment will see their appropriate participation in due course.”
Vardalos’ attorney, Jonathan Moonves of the law firm Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka & Finkelstein, said: “This lawsuit is a participation dispute between Gold Circle and MPH. Nia has nothing to do with the distribution of profits and should not be a party to this lawsuit. We are looking at all of Nia’s possible actions in response to being inappropriately named, and we believe naming her was outrageous.”