Alan Ladd Jr., a Hollywood figure renowned for being cryptic and non-confrontational, finds himself in a discomfiting setting today — the witness stand.
Ladd’s uncharacteristic suit against Warner Bros. charges that he was inadequately compensated for ancillary income on “Chariots of Fire” and other movies, and that, even more upsetting, his credit was dropped from DVDs and their packaging.
This omission has sent chills into the producing community, for, the thinking goes, if that can happen to someone of Laddie’s stature, it could happen to anyone.
Ladd, a former topper at Fox and MGM, grew up in the biz as the son of “Shane” thesp Alan Ladd. He and Jay Kanter, a fellow MGM exec, had a distribution deal with Warners from 1979-85.
Warner’s handling of 12 pics produced by the Ladd Co. under that deal serve the basis for the suit, which the producers filed against Warner Bros. and Time Warner four years ago.
The trial got under way July 11 in L.A. Superior Court with Ladd’s son-in-law, John M. Gatti, serving as Ladd and Kanter’s attorney. A trail of auditors and film valuation experts has testified in the first week of the jury trial.
At issue: Whether the producers have been adequately compensated from ancillary coin — and properly credited in reissues.
In their complaint, the producers claim Warner has failed to pay them their full share of downstream revenue from pics such as “Chariots of Fire,” “Blade Runner” and the “Police Academy” franchise. They accuse the studio of improperly allocating license fees in package sales of pics.
The producers base some of these charges on an audit conducted over concerns about the studio’s accounting practices.
They also claim the studio failed to send Ladd royalty checks for “Blade Runner,” while sending checks to another profit participant, and of continuing to sell copies of the “Once Upon a Time in America” DVD without the Ladd logo after being informed of its absence on the DVD and its packaging.
Warner, not surprisingly, has a different view. The studio claims the producers have been adequately compensated for their pics. And it maintains that the Ladd Co. logo was removed from the “Once Upon a Time in America” DVD copies and packaging by mistake and that it was fixed as soon as possible. The logo was also omitted from DVD packaging of “Chariots of Fire,” but the studio also rectified that omission.
It’s unusual for such cases to go to trial. In fact, this one marks the first time Warner has done so over allocation issues.