TWC filed the suit on Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging that the producers breached their agreement to sell the rights to TWC prior to the May 12 announcement that Open Road had purchased the U.S. rights.
A spokeswoman for Open Road said the company had no comment about the suit, which alleged that the rights were sold to TWC on March 30 following a week of negotiations.
“The producer defendants materially breached the agreement by retracting their promise to sell TWC the ‘Playmobil’ movie distribution rights and refusing to negotiate a written deal memo in good faith,” the complaint said. “Instead of honoring their contractual obligations to TWC, the producer defendants purported to terminate the agreement and entered into a contract with Open Road Films for the same distribution rights that they had already sold to TWC.”
The suit is asking the court to toss out the Open Road deal. It also seeks unspecified damages.
The action alleges that the agreement was terminated two weeks later on April 13 after TWC didn’t provide a letter of credit. The producers’ representatives allegedly told TWC, “As we have not received substantive response despite our communications to you that time is of the essence, please be advised that negotiations are respectfully terminated.”
The complaint asserts that the termination “was merely a pretext for breaking off negotiations so that the producer defendants could sell the distribution rights for the ‘Playmobil’ movie to another buyer.”
Open Road planned to release “Playmobil,” based on the German toy line, on Jan. 18, 2019. The film will be directed by Disney veteran Lino DiSalvo and produced by the team behind “The Little Prince” (Aton Soumache, Dimitri Rassam, Alexis Vonarb), along with Axel Von Maydell and Moritz Borman.
It said at that point that the project was developed in cooperation with Pathé France and will be sold internationally by Lionsgate and Wild Bunch.
TWC had a similar high-profile dispute with Lionsgate in 2009 over the distribution rights to “Precious,” which won two Academy Awards and grossed $47 million domestically and $16 million internationally. The two competing suits were settled in 2010.
The news about the suit was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.