Michael Elias filed the suit on Dec. 6 in Los Angeles Superior Court. His attorney, Neville Johnson, filed similar class-action lawsuits against six other studios in 2013 and 2014, resulting in multi-million dollar settlements.
The controversy dates to the early days of the VCR, when the major studios would contract out to independent distributors for VHS production. The distributors would return 20% of their receipts to the studios. Later, the studios brought their home video distribution in-house, but did not adjust the profit calculation, the suit alleges.
“In other words, 80% of the revenue generated from such distribution is never subject to potential remittance to profit participants and is, instead, wrongfully kept by Disney outright,” the suit alleges.
According to the suit, Elias’ contract entitled him to 5% of net profits on the film, which starred Michael McKean and Sean Young. Elias, now 78, also co-wrote the screenplay for “The Jerk” and co-created the 1980s TV show “Head of the Class.”
The suit seeks to represent profit participants on Disney films who are owed home video revenue, generally those with contracts signed before 1981. After that, studio contracts explicitly spelled out that profit participants are entitled only to 20% of home video revenue.