Suit seeks ruling on whether 1944 pact restores rights

HOLLYWOOD — Beatrice Welles, the daughter of Orson Welles, has filed a lawsuit claiming she is the owner of the rights to film classic “Citizen Kane.”

Suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, names Turner Entertainment Co. and RKO Pictures as defendants. (Turner bought the film rights from RKO). It alleges that Welles entered into a 1939 contract to write produce and star in “Citizen Kane” and “The Magnificent Ambersons.” According to the complaint, a 1944 agreement between Welles and RKO terminated the earlier agreement and restored the copyrights in the films to Welles.

Suit seeks a ruling on which contract is applicable. It contends that if the 1944 agreement is in force, Welles’ heirs own the rights to “Kane” and “Ambersons.” Even if the 1939 agreement is in force, claims the suit, the family is contractually entitled to 20% of the profits from the films, and the defendants have failed to pay royalties.

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