Bohemian Rhapsody, the 2018 Queen biopic starring Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, is allegedly more than $50 million in the red, according to a new lawsuit filed by screenwriter Anthony McCarten.
McCarten filed a breach of contract suit against film producer Graham King and his company, GK Films, Deadline reports. McCarten claims he made a deal with King to receive five percent of GK Films’ net proceeds, but at some point, King turned over his deals to Fox (now owned by Disney), and McCarten has yet to see any of the money he is owed.
McCarten and his attorneys are seeking “monetary damages in an amount to be proven at trial,” as well as a full accounting of the movie, which grossed $216 million domestically and $911 million worldwide against a $52 million budget. Despite this, accounting statements from Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation show that Bohemian Rhapsody is $51 million in the red.
The 50-page suit cites the first of three deals McCarten struck with production company WAGW, Inc in 2015 for an “amount equal to five percent of 100 percent of the ‘Net Proceeds.’” Fox, however, claims McCarten is owed money only via its “Defined Net Proceeds” definition, rather than GK Films’ standard “‘Net Proceeds’ definition, as modified through good faith negotiation.”
The suit further notes that many major studios have a penchant for “‘defining’ profits in byzantine ways and then applying arbitrary, onerous distribution fees, administrative fees, overhead fees, etc.” in order to prevent writers from seeing the money they’re owed.
In other words, Fox claims that even though Bohemian Rhapsody was an unqualified box office smash, the film made no net profits because of its myriad expenses, so the studio does not owe McCarten any money.
Humorist and writer Art Buchwald fought a similar court battle regarding the 1988 film Coming to America, which starred Eddie Murphy. The movie grossed $288 million worldwide, but Paramount Pictures wrote off the bulk of its box office receipts through production, marketing and distribution costs, and argued that it had no net profits from which to pay Buchwald. Murphy, who by 1988 was sharing in gross receipts, derisively referred to net proceeds as “monkey points” in a deposition.
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