‘Terminator’ locked in rights standoff

MGM sued over distribution rights

The holders of the rights to “Terminator 4” have sued MGM, claiming the studio is interfering with their right to negotiate for the distribution of the planned fourth installment of the highly successful series. Halcyon Co. and its principals, Victor Kubicek and Derek Anderson, acquired rights in May, including sequel rights to “Terminator 2” and “Terminator 3” and a script by “T3” writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris, with plans to launch a big-budget sequel.

According to the complaint, filed in L.A. Superior Court on Wednesday, MGM claimed it had acquired an exclusive 30-day negotiation window for “T4” in the 1990s Orion Pictures bankruptcy. T Asset, the plaintiff and Halcyon’s subsidiary, did not concede MGM’s rights but began negotiations in May over distribution. T Asset claims MGM’s exclusive window is now over despite MGM’s claims in the media that it has the right to distribute “T4.” The suit seeks a declaration and injunctive relief.

As outlined in the complaint, producer Moritz Borman began negotiations with MGM chief operating officer Rick Sands on May 31. The deal proposed by MGM for worldwide distribution included a commitment of almost $200 million and gave MGM approval over budget, script, director and male lead. It also included a lower backend participation to T Asset. With the 30-day period running out, the two sides could not make a deal.

According to the complaint, MGM then claimed T Asset was required to continue negotiations and that it would prevent T Asset from negotiating with other studios. Also at issue is T Asset’s refusal to allow MGM to review the confidential screenplay. According to correspondence attached to the complaint, MGM claims that T Asset has taken an unfair “take it or leave it” position in the negotiations. MGM appears to take the position that “T4” cannot have the same deal as “T3” without Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role.

Commenting on the litigation, an MGM spokesman said, “MGM is completely comfortable with its rights position on the ‘Terminator’ franchise, and we will not allow anyone to interfere with our rights.”

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