Telling tales of old Hollywood, producer Alan Ladd took the stand on Thursday in his accounting suit against Warner Bros.
On direct examination by his attorney and son-in-law John Gatti, a still dapper Ladd told jurors he was shocked when his daughter told him his credit and logo were no longer on the DVD of “Chariots of Fire.” That realization spurred Ladd to file suit against the studio in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2003, claming he hadn’t received his fair share of coin for TV licensing deals for the pic, and for his missing credits.
Ladd, whose stellar career included stints heading MGM and Fox, said he produced at Warners under the Ladd Co. banner at the suggestion of former studio bigwig Frank Wells. Ladd left Warners in 1985, after former Warners chairman Steven J. Ross got sick and Wells left to join Michael Eisner at Disney. Ladd admitted he wasn’t on the same page professionally with Ross and Wells’ successors.
“Bob Daly and Terry Semel were friends but they didn’t have the same will for us to succeed,” Ladd testified. “There were arguments … They had to take ‘Road Warrior’ out of theaters so we could put ‘Blade Runner’ in.”
On direct, Ladd’s testimony featured other tidbits including being caught in the middle between “Blade Runner” director Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford, who never spoke to each other during the filming of the classic sci-fi pic.
On cross examination, attorney Michael Bergman, repping Warners, got Ladd to concede that no one ever had a better deal at Warners than he did. The Ladd Co. has received $21 million from Warners from the deal, which has come in at the rate of about a $1 million a year.
Ladd and his partner Jay Kantor are suing Warners for approx $9 million, alleging that license fees for domestic and international TV and cable sales on pictures such as “Blade Runner” and “Chariots of Fire” were unfairly allocated. He is also suing for how his profit participation was calculated on “Blade Runner.”
The most emotional claim is that his credit was dropped on DVD packages including “Chariots of Fire,” “Night Shift,” “The Right Stuff” and “Once Upon a Time in America.” Warners has said that the omission was inadvertent.
On the stand, Ladd described it as “embarrassing and humiliating. … It’s like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ — it’s like I never existed.” Asked to put a monetary value on the credit omission, Ladd said several million dollars.
Ladd’s case is believed to be the first allocation claim to come to trial. Once relatively rare, allocation claims — claims that when a group of films are licensed for sale, the stronger films in the package are unfairly shortchanged in the allocation of the revenue derived from the pact — are now quite common. Warners argues that these deals are individually negotiated with buyers. Furthermore, says the studio, it has no motive to lower the fee when 95% goes to the studio and 5% goes to the Ladd Co. as a profit participant.
Addressing Ladd’s main contention that high prestige films like “Chariots of Fire” should have commanded higher fees, Bergman asked Ladd if there was any evidence that an Oscar 20 years ago helped TV sales. Ladd agreed that there was none.
Bergman also addressed Ladd’s antitrust tying claim — that buyers were forced to take films they didn’t want as part of a package — to which Ladd also said he had no evidence.
Getting a laugh, Bergman reminded Ladd of the omission of his credit on DVDs of “Police Academy” 4 & 5 on which he had no direct involvement.
“The omission didn’t cause humiliation and embarrassment,” said Ladd, “the films did.” Bergman pointed out that, “Those humiliating and embarrassing films earned you $3 million.”