As Woody Allen sues, Amazon will have to argue that #MeToo suggests it can terminate a $68 million deal even though many type of think that public outrage was "foreseeable."


In late August 2017, Amazon Studios’ then-chief Roy Price negotiated a deal with Woody Allen to release the writer-director’s next four movies, with minimum guaranteed payments totaling between $68 million and also $73 million. The e-business gigantic was on the verge of coming to be a full-fledged Hollywood studio, and also would certainly launch a film circulation arm three months after cutting the deal with Allen, via his Wonder Wheel as its initially foray. With Allen’s movies in the pipeline and also his TV series Crisis in Six Scenes on the Prime platform, Price pronounced that he might complete with conventional studios (and also Netflix) for auteurs.

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Just over a month after signing the epic deal, the #MeToo tsunami hit Hollytimber, sweeping out Price and shining a renewed spotlight on Allen, whose adopted daughter Dylan Farrow proceeds to insurance claim that the Annie Hall helmer, now 83, molested her as soon as she was 7. The stars of his A Rainy Day in New York — the initially film extended in the 2017 deal — started to publicly distance themselves from Allen, and the film’s challenges appeared insurmountable.

In June 2018, sources say Amazon attempted to cut ties and also give Rainy Day — a film about the suddenly tone-deaf connection between a well-past-middle-age man (Jude Law) and also a young womale (played by Elle Fanning, 19 at the moment of production) — earlier to Allen to perform through what he pleased. In response, on Feb. 7, Allen sued for breach of contract.

Amazon Studios, currently run by Jennifer Salke, finds itself at the facility of a situation experimentation how binding a contract is for those crippled by #MeToo clintends. In his suit, Allen conoften tends that Amazon has no legitimate basis to cancel his affluent deal, and Price’s overt indifference to Farrow’s claims at the time of the deal will certainly be a crucial aspect in this legal drama.


Amazon declined comment, however experts believe it will certainly make the discussion that tright here are factors beyond its control once working via talent branded by the #MeToo movement. And Amazon is not alone in that predicament. Take the case of Millennium Films CEO Avi Lerner, that defiantly stood by his decision to hire Bryan Singer to direct Red Sonja (choose Allen, Singer has been dogged by allegations of statutory rape). But on Feb. 11, Lerner shelved Red Sonja, not because he was caving to public push yet because his company version calls for guaranteed U.S. circulation in order to make the even more vital deals with international distributors, and no domestic label would touch the radioenergetic job (having actually no U.S. distributor lined up also made it challenging to bond Singer). Singer didn’t have actually a so-dubbed pay-or-play deal, resources tell The Hollylumber Reporter, making it simpler for Millennium to walk.

In his complaint, Allen says Amazon simply can’t walk ameans from obligations to distribute and pay him for A Rainy Day in New York because of a “25-year-old, baseless allegation.” But last June, the company’s lawyer Robert Klieger hinted at Amazon’s coming legal dispute in an email to Allen’s team at Quinn Emanuel. Klieger wrote, “Amazon’s performance of the Commitment came to be impracticable as a result of supervening occasions, consisting of renewed allegations versus Mr. Allen, his very own controversial comments and also the raising refusal of peak talent to work-related via or be linked with him in any kind of way, all of which have actually frustrated the purpose of the Agreement and support Amazon’s decision to terminate it.”

Rainy Day’s Rebecca Hall, that additionally worked with Allen in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, joined a thriving list of talent saying she regretted functioning through him. Even if Amazon can take a bath with the Rainy Day release, how could it mount three even more movies with the director offered that only a handful of actors and also actresses are supporting him, notably Alec Baldwin and also Diane Keaton.

“Frustration of purpose.” That’s a valid defense frequently argued once both sides of a contract deserve to perdevelop their duties, yet as a result of unforeseeable occasions, one party (below, Allen) can’t provide the other (Amazon) the benefit of what induced the baracquire in the first location. The unforeseeable occasion right here is the #MeToo movement. “An unseemly underpinning of the defense is that it sounds , ‘We didn’t care prior to, but we treatment currently bereason our consumers treatment,"” claims entertainment litigator James Sammataro at Stroock. “Allen’s dispute also demands to straddle a tightrope, as he successfully requirements to argue that public outrage was ‘foreseeable."”

Allen’s lawyers have actually made subtle options in anticipating Amazon’s legal response. With nods in the complaint to the “2018 Allen Film Agreement” and the “2019 Allen Film Commitment,” his legal team is leaving the impression that these deals postday the rise of the #MeToo agreement even if negotiations arisen a lot previously.

Amazon wouldn’t be the first to argue frustration of purpose. In 2015, Univision backed amethod from a five-year, $13.5 million deal to broadactors the Miss USA pageant after then-owner Donald Trump sassist he’d be running for president and also described Mexican immigrants as “rapists.” After Trump filed a $500 million suit, Univision relocated for dismissal through word that Trump frustrated the necessary purpose of the agreement by crassly denigrating its core audience.Trump’s legal response before the instance was settled? As his lawyers put it, “Over the course of his career, Mr. Trump has been recognized throughout the civilization as a ‘straight-talker’ — someone who is not afraid to sheight his mind.”

Trump’s Miss USA case has actually some similarity to Allen’s. In the confront of canceled deals, both framework the case as entirely foreseeable without any contractual safeguards that would certainly legitimize a termination. Amazon’s agreements through Allen spell out a lot — e.g., his movies would certainly have a 90-day theatrical release, Allen had actually wide approval civil liberties over marketing, he’d get a $50,000 bonus for an Oscar nomination — but no morals clausage. Unchoose many type of market deals, Amazon didn’t negotiate for the explicit ideal to rescind based on something that would certainly carry Allen right into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule.

That doesn’t necessarily doom Amazon, however mean Allen’s lawyers to hit the suggest difficult that the company’s attorneys, understanding his reputation, chosen not to negotiate a morals clausage (in reality, Amazon walso conscious of Farrow’s allegations, which resurfaced well prior to #MeToo once her brother Ronan Farrow created a column for THR that excoriated the director on the eve of his Cafe Society bowing at Cannes in 2016). Amazon, subsequently, will suggest to the #MeToo economic fallout, as shown by a film prefer Kevin Spacey’s Billionaire Boys Club, which was DOA last year.

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Amazon’s goal will be to sway a judge that contractual frustration quantities to an issue for a jury, so that it may gain to trial via a sympathetic #MeToo story. Amazon may have acted late, but so did many kind of actors and also audiences to allegations trailing Allen over the years. Previewing what Amazon likely would tell a jury, litigator Devin McRae claims, “If you are engaged in predatory conduct, maybe you shouldn’t be rewarded.”

Still, one top executive at an Amazon rival sees the situation as a potential windautumn for Allen if (and also that’s a huge “if”) he wins. “He deserve to take the money and also make a few movies and also have money for P&A. He have the right to hire a booking and marketing company for a fee,” states the exec. “Or offer on the open up sector. Who knows what firm could be willing to distribute? Especially because nopoint has actually changed through him in 25 years.”

A version of this story appeared in the Feb. 13 issue of The Hollylumber Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine,click below to subscribe.