Hollywood Law Impact Report
Firm: O’Melveny & Myers
The practice: The venerable O’Melveny & Myers — one of the oldest and largest firms in Los Angeles — has stayed up-to-date by always trying to figure out what’s around the next corner.
“We’ve been around for longer than anybody,” says Calabrese, the head of the firm’s entertainment and media practice, “and we can do the basic bread-and-butter stuff. But our growth has been in structuring sophisticated vehicles. We see ourselves as adding value in complex deals.” In fact, Calabrese and his partner Stephen Scharf have handled a multitude of transactions in the $100 million to billion-dollar range.
Clients include studios like Disney; hedge funds such as D.B. Zwirn and lenders such as CIT. They worked on the financing for Joel Silver’s Dark Castle and for the Weinstein Co. They represent film distributor Mandate; the private-equity funded Legendary Pictures, which has a hit with “300”; Jeff Skoll’s Participant Prods.; and Philip Anschutz.
On the litigation side, Schwartz’s practice ranges from traditional Hollywood accounting cases to innovative copyright issues. The numerous matters he’s handled for the studios include Sony’s struggle for the film rights to Spider-Man; Garrison v. Warner Bros., a class-action case involving profit participation; and a series of false advertising claims, where he defended the studio in cases arising from fake movie reviews. Currently, he represents New Line on a number of high-profile profit participation matters, particularly claims by Saul Zaentz over the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, which are largely settled, and claims by director Peter Jackson, which are still pending.
Schwartz also has been deeply involved in new-technology issues. He is particularly proud of his role in Grokster, the 2005 case handled by numerous lawyers, where the U.S. Supreme Court held that sharing copyrighted film and music files is illegal. “The court adopted my theory of active inducement, which makes it much easier for film and television rights holders to go after piracy,” Schwartz says.
POV: “An enormous amount of money is being reinvested into hedge funds and venture capital,” Scharf notes. “People who historically had not invested in film because it is too risky and the returns are not good enough are now saying, ‘I’m already tolerating a greater amount of risk.’ ”