Vivendi Moves To Dismiss ‘Tap’ Suit

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– Spinal Tap
Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, England

Vivendi S.A. and Studiocanal say they have “genuine admiration” for “This Is Spinal Tap” stars Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Rob Reiner, but their $400 million claim for damages is “absurd” and they should be dismissed from their own suit.

The companies moved to dismiss the comedians in a Feb. 28 U.S. District Court filing, saying that only Spinal Tap Productions had standing to file the suit because the Spinal Tap members signed letters authorizing STP to collect payments, thus waiving the right to sue.

The studios also claim that “This Is Spinal Tap” generated “U.S. theatrical revenue of under $5 million,” according to court documents, nowhere near the $400 million the stars claim they are owed.

“Plaintiffs may not like the fact that they have not received anything close to the $400 million in contingent compensation that their complaint absurdly claims they should have received,” the motion says. “But that is only because the movie they made has not generated anywhere near the revenue necessary to pay them anything close to that sum.” The motion says it is a “reality check” on the original $125 million suit filed by Shearer.

An amended complaint adding Guest, McKean and Reiner was filed Feb. 7, upping the damages to $400 million.

According to the motion to dismiss, “Spinal Tap” may have earned the “affection” of U.S. audiences, but didn’t earn a lot of money.

“Revenue from other sources and territories has been similarly modest,” according to the motion.

Shearer and company allege they are entitled to 40 percent of net receipts and that Vivendi mismanaged the flow of payments through subsidiaries, including for soundtrack rights.

The suit also claims defendant Ron Halpern of Studiocanal not only mismanaged “exploitation” of the movie, but abandoned trademark rights and prevented the stars from performing or selling merch. In their motion to dismiss, Vivendi and Studiocanal allege the plaintiffs failed to investigate their own claims before filing the suit.

“They would have learned that they have no basis on which to assert any claims concerning the calculation and payment of the ‘Spinal Tap’ participation,” the motion says.

The motion to dismiss the individual plaintiffs, while acknowledging that STP has standing, also seeks to dismiss fraud claims.