New Black Films behind ‘Battle of the Sexes’

Docu portrays women's fight for equal pay in sports

LONDON – Local shingle New Black Films is producing a theatrical documentary about Billie Jean King and the battle to establish equal pay in women’s sports.

“The Battle of the Sexes” focuses on the years 1968-73 climaxing with the tennis match between the then 29-year-old King and 55-year-old Bobby Riggs.

It will tell the story of the renegade group of women, the so-called Original Nine, who stood up to the establishment and led to tennis becoming the most lucrative professional women’s sport.

The year 1968 was a watershed in tennis: The game went professional, but the prize money was quickly grabbed by the men, with the women’s game marginalized. But women across Europe and America were demanding “equal pay for equal play,” and so Billie Jean King and eight other professionals took the game to the boys.

Jean King, winner of 39 grand slam titles, said: “I am excited to be part of a film that is bringing to life this important piece in the history of modern day sports and society.”

Film, which is aimed to compete at next year’s Sundance, is co-helmed by James Erskine and Victoria Gregory. The latter produces for Media Square Films.

The exec producers are Jean King and Robert Jolliffe of Goldcrest Capital.

Erskine said, “I believe this is the perfect theatrical documentary, humorous, insightful and full of heart.”

World sales will be handled by Goldcrest Films Intl. Madman Entertainment has picked up all rights for Australia and New Zealand.

The docu is the second film to emerge from a wider development deal between New Black Films and 4Rights, which will own homevideo rights to “The Battle of the Sexes.”

The match between Jean King and Riggs was the subject of a 2001 ABC docu-drama “When Billie Beat Bobby.”