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Franchise-Intertainment trial postponed to ’04

Judge Stotler did not give reasons for decision

A correction was made to this article on July 16, 2003.

A federal judge in Los Angeles has postponed until next year the start of the trial between U.S. producer Franchise Pictures and German distrib Intertainment.

U.S. District Court judge Alicemarie H. Stotler on Friday directed the parties to agree on a new date between March and August 2004.

Just hours before the judge’s announcement, Intertainment had confirmed the previously scheduled Aug. 5 date.

Last Thursday, the court refused to consider a motion by Franchise to stay the trial pending the outcome of a related arbitration.

The postponement came without prior notification to Intertainment or its lawyers. In her ruling, Stotler did not give any reasons for her decision.

“It is totally incomprehensible why such an important process has been postponed for the third time,” said Intertainment CEO Rudiger Baeres, “especially when the judge decisively rejected the attempts of the lawyers of Franchise Pictures to have the trial postponed on the occasion of the pretrial conference.”

Intertainment is suing Franchise for allegedly fraudulently inflating budgets on a slate of films including Sean Penn’s “The Pledge,” demanding compensation of at least $100 million. A state court case, in which Intertainment sued banks and bond companies in connection with the alleged fraud, was recently sent to arbitration. Franchise has become a party to the arbitration.

Intertainment’s share price, after doubling over the last week due to a new financial partnership with OpenPictures, fell by 41% to E2.94 ($3.30) after the court’s announcement.

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