'Chipmunks' owners sue Fox, claim HALF of 'Squeakquel' millionsMon Apr 26, 2010 @ 02:47PM PST
By Eriq Gardner and Matthew Belloni
Given the success of the "Chipmunks" movie, damages could run in the tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.
Ross Bagdasarian is no stranger to litigation over the Chipmunks. His father Ross (aka David Seville) famously created the franchise in 1958 and, upon his death in 1972, Ross Jr. stepped in as the primary owner of Chipmunk productions. For the past decade, he's been fighting over control of his father's creations, bringing lawsuits against movie studios and record companies.
The settlement paved the way for a deal with Fox to create a new film. In 2007, the studio released "Alvin & the Chipmunks" to worldwide success, grossing more than $361 million at the boxoffice. Then came "The Squeakquel," which was an even greater phenomenon, beating "Avatar" in early boxoffice returns and eventually enjoying more than $442 million in worldwide gross.
Karman now claims that her screenplay constituted a substantial portion of the final "Squeakquel" script (she lists all the scenes in the film that she believes came from her work). "Karman's provision of her screenplay writings to Fox was conditioned upon the payment of adequate compensation for those writings and her attendant services, which Karman never received," the complaint says.
In addition, the plaintiffs want damages from Fox for allegedly breaching a "Producer Agreement." The family's deal allegedly entitles it to a $3 million rights purchase payment and 2.5% of first dollar gross on the pic. The plaintiffs now say Fox is claiming the $3 million was an advance against gross rather than a payment in addition to gross.
Also, in an eerie parallel to the Universal case, Bagdasarian and his wife claim that Fox didn't take advantage of the film's huge merchandising opportunity, failing to issue a "style book" for prospective merch licensees and delaying efforts. Bagdasarian says this failure was a breach of its deal.
The lawsuit, which claims causes of action for copyright infringement, unjust enrichment, breach of contract and "declaration of co-ownership and accounting for profits," was filed Wednesday by Steve Marenberg and Carter Batsell at L.A.'s Irell & Manella.