Warners ponies up ‘Hazzard’ pay

Studio settles with producer Clark for $17.5 mil

Chalk one up for the little guy.

Warner Bros. Pictures has agreed to pay a Georgia-based producer at least $17.5 million for infringing on the copyright to his even-more-obscure 1974 United Artists film, “Moonrunners,” which became the basis of the hit Warners TV skein, “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

The amount paid to the producer, Robert B. Clark, is more than what the studio spent in talent salaries on the new “Hazzard” pic.

However, Warners was faced with federal judge Gary Allen Feess’ preliminary injunction, which would have canceled the Aug. 13 release of Warner’s new “Dukes of Hazzard” feature and seen all copies of the $55 million Johnnie Knoxville-starrer impounded by federal marshals.

What’s more, the film’s DVD release would have been delayed indefinitely, and its $40 million theatrical marketing budget — much of that spent on spot TV ads — would have gone down the drain.

Marc Toberoff, the attorney who represented Clark in U.S. District Court, would only reiterate his previous statement of last week that “the parties have reached a settlement of all claims in the litigation,” adding that “the terms of that settlement are confidential.” (Daily Variety, July 23)

Scott Rowe, a spokesman for Warner Bros. Entertainment, said on Thursday afternoon that the studio declined to comment.

In winning a preliminary injunction, Toberoff demonstrated to the judge’s satisfaction that Clark was likely to win at trial and would suffer irreparable harm if the movie opened. Irreparable harm is presumed in copyright infringement cases, based on a 1999 lawsuit by Sun Microsystems against Microsoft.

Now that a settlement has been reached, Warners will premiere the new “The Dukes of Hazzard” feature July 28 at the Mann Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.

Still unclear is whether Clark will be getting an invitation.