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Lancaster trustees sue MGM

Case alleges breach of contract and constructive fraud

The trustees of a pair of trusts holding film rights that belonged to Burt Lancaster have filed a $2 million suit against Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer claiming they were cheated on their gross profit participation from several classic films.

According to the complaint filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, an audit last year revealed “a wide array of wrongful conduct” that included failing to report revenues, charging excessive fees and costs and making improper deductions.

The trusts, which are represented by attorney Martin Singer, were entitled to varying percentages of the gross, ranging from 7.5% to 61%, from the distribution of the films “Judgment at Nuremberg,” “The Birdman of Alcatraz,” “The Train” and “Elmer Gantry.” Suit also alleges that MGM improperly packaged the films with other pictures and failed to properly allocate their value within the packages.

Suit alleges breach of contract and constructive fraud. In addition to money damages, the plaintiffs seek to rescind agreements signed in 1992 and 1997 giving up certain rights to a group of 14 films in exchange for a promise of accurate and timely accounting.

An MGM spokesman said Thursday the company couldn’t comment because it had not seen the complaint.