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‘Push’ sparks legal battle

TWC, Lionsgate file lawsuits

The film isn’t even in theaters yet, but “Push: Based on a Novel by Sapphire” has already spawned dueling lawsuits.

Lionsgate Films and The Weinstein Co. on Wednesday filed lawsuits in Los Angeles and New York, both claiming they had an agreement with producers to distribute the film.

“Push,” based on the 1996 novel by the poet Sapphire and directed by Lee Daniels, was a darling at the recent Sundance Film Festival, picking up grand jury and audience awards.

In a statement, attorney Bert Fields said The Weinstein Co. had a “firm agreement” with the film’s producers and that Lionsgate interfered. Lionsgate claims the producers signed a written agreement stating they had no written or verbal agreement with Weinstein.

Lionsgate is seeking a judge’s ruling that it owns the rights to distribute “Push” in the United States and Canada. Weinstein is suing for breach of contract.

“Push” is already competing for its title. A sci-fi movie of the same name starring Dakota Fanning will be released Friday.

Sapphire’s “Push” is a dark yet hopeful story of a young, illiterate woman who is the victim of incest and trying to find her way in 1980s Harlem.

Fields’ statement said Lionsgate was trying to pre-empt its lawsuit and is “forum-shopping.” A phone message left for Lionsgate’s attorney was not immediately returned Thursday morning.

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