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Court fight for ‘Kings’

Promoters cry foul over film footage

NEW YORK — It’s Round Three in the case of “When We Were Kings”: Lloyd Price and Hank Schwartz are expected to announce as early as today a $50 million lawsuit against Polygram Filmed Entertainment, Mercury Records and the director and producers of the 1996 docu, “When We Were Kings.”

Price and Schwartz, who produced and promoted the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” festival and prize-fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire, have filed a suit with the New York State Supreme Court, a source familiar with the case said.

The filing contends that “Kings” helmer Leon Gast and producer David Sonenberg — who were awarded Oscars for best documentary — fraudulently obtained control of film and recordings of the event that were produced by Schwartz and Price and their company, Festival in Zaire.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants did not check court records and documents that would have established the stakes of Price and Schwartz when Polygram acquired “Kings” in February 1996.

Reps at Polygram said they had not heard of the suit and had not been served; a spokeswoman for Gramercy Pictures, a division of Polygram, declined to comment.

Price and Schwartz declined to comment, but did not deny the existence of the suit.

It’s the third legal salvo in the film’s history. Taylor Hackford, who helped edit and produce the film, was sued on copyright issues by Sonenberg in 1996. Hackford countersued Sonenberg, alleging breach of contract and fraud relating to the copyright on “Kings,” eventually settling out of court.

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