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Miramax reigns in court

What’s scarier than horror movies? Lawsuits over horror movies.

Lawyers for Columbia Pictures and Mandalay Entertainment will be back in federal court today in New York City, seeking a federal judge’s approval of planned new TV commercials for their new horror film, “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” which debuted at No. 1 over the weekend with an estimated $16.1 million.

The judge ordered Columbia and Mandalay to present the new commercials in response to a suit filed last week by Miramax, which charged that the “Summer” ad campaign deceptively linked that film with Miramax’s “Scream.” Miramax sought a federal court order to stop newspaper, radio, TV and other ads, which describe Mandalay’s “Summer” as a film “from the creator of ‘Scream.’ ”

Mandalay and Columbia contend the line refers to Kevin Williamson, who wrote “Scream” as an original screenplay. But Miramax officials say the ads deceptively imply that “Summer” was made by Wes Craven, director of “Scream.” Craven has no involvement in “Summer,” and Williamson’s script for the new Mandalay horror pic is an adaptation of a novel by Lois Duncan.

In court last week, Columbia and Mandalay told U.S. District Court Judge Miriam Cedarbaum they would remove the “creator of” line from the remainder of their 2-month-old campaign.

Miramax had also objected to the use of the audio line in a TV spot — “Last time he made you scream, this time you won’t have the chance.” Columbia and Mandalay agreed to stop using the spot.

But the opposing studios’ spin on the lawsuit is rotating faster than Linda Blair’s head in “The Exorcist.”

According to Neil Sacker, exec VP of business and legal affairs for Miramax, the judge was concerned that the “Summer” campaign may in fact have been deceptive, and ordered Columbia and Mandalay to change the campaign or risk a court-imposed restraining order. Miramax execs, pleased with the concessions Columbia and Mandalay agreed to, described last week’s court experience as a big win for their side, since it effectively granted the legal remedies they were seeking.

A Columbia spokesman, however, said that while the studio didn’t mind losing the “from the creator of Scream” line, they maintain they have the right to use it and would fight Miramax’s multimillion-dollar charge that the ads were deceptive.