The producers of the critically acclaimed independent film The Girl Next Door, which came out in theatres in 2000 and chronicled the romantic and personal life of buxom blonde porn film star Stacy Valentine, have objected to and have brought a claim against Regency Enterprises’ upcoming film The Girl Next Door.
The latter film, a romantic comedy that has been released by Fox this week, features a female protagonist who is a blonde porn film star. The producers complain that, after their film The Girl Next Door came out, Regency came to them and asked them for television series rights to their film, including the name and trademark rights, so that Regency could develop a fictional TV series for Fox about people in the porn business. The producers say that after they gave Regency the television rights, however, the company failed to make the TV series and, instead, took the title of their documentary and, without their permission and without paying them, used the name for the Regency-Fox motion picture The Girl Next Door involving a porn star character. The producers claim Regency has breached its contract with them, by going beyond the scope of the television rights given them, and that it is infringing their trademark. They are concerned about their ability to market their movie The Girl Next Door? when it goes into the video, DVD, and cable TV markets later this year, and about the impact the Fox movie will have on their ability to develop sequels or spinoffs under that name.
The producers are Christine Fugate and Adam Berns. Fugate directed the first-released film “The Girl Next Door” and premiered it at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah in 1999. The film went on to screen at over 14 film festivals worldwide.
In 2000, it was released theatrically in 49 cities and was the number two top grossing theatrical documentary of the year.
In 1999, 2000, and 2001, Regency was very involved with Fugate and Berns and their plans to create fictional works of entertainment as a logical offshoot of their movie The Girl Next Door. Fugate and Berns were talking about doing a fictional motion picture or a TV series, or both, loosely based on some of the people they had met from, and some of the things they had learned about, the porn industry during the time that they were developing and shooting The Girl Next Door. Regency told Fugate and Berns that it wanted to make a television series with them, along those lines, and it asked them for the television series rights to The Girl Next Door. Fugate and Berns sold Regency the rights they wanted. Regency wrote up a contract for Fugate and Berns, whereby, for no money paid to them up front, Regency was given any and all rights to “all aspects” of the Fugate and Berns movie The Girl Next Door (with the term “all aspects” obviously including the name rights to the movie) specifically for, and only for, a television series.
Having gotten the rights it wanted from Berns and Fugate, Regency moved forward, commissioned writers to write a script, and developed a pilot for Fox. The pilot was never shot. Instead, what was shot was the motion picture, The Girl Next Door. It was made, for release by Fox, without Berns or Fugate receiving any payment or credit. (What is interesting to note is that, in addition to the name “The Girl Next Door,” Berns and Fugate also submitted a second possible name for their pilot for Regency and Fox. That name, “Skin,” somehow ended up being used by Fox, three years later, for a TV series dealing with the porn business, without Berns or Fugate being paid or credited.)
Greg Sater, the producers’ attorney, explains: “My clients worked very hard to make their independent film The Girl Next Door a success. It was released in theaters in 49 cities. Now, they want to release it on video and DVD as well as have it air on cable, and they want to develop spin offs using the name and building on it. It’s their right. They’ve earned it. After my client’s movie came out, they gave Regency Television the right to use “all aspects” of their film, which would include its name, specifically for a TV series that they were to be involved in and paid for. The TV series did not go anywhere. My clients never dreamed Regency Films would turn around, make a movie using the same name featuring a main character who, like the main character in my clients’ non-fiction film, is a porn star, and release that movie in theatres and then, I am sure, on video, DVD, and cable television, during the same time period when my clients are still exploiting the commercial rights to their film.”
Every movie has a “window” of time during which it is exploited, first in theatres, then on DVD and video and cable television, and then, in some cases, through TV series, spin offs, and sequels. Here, the producers complain that Regency is cutting into their exploitation window, because the first Girl Next Door movie recently came out, was being shown in certain theatres as recently as last year, and has not even gone to video and DVD yet. The producers say that because Regency and Fox are so much larger and better funded than they are, the studio film will gain a much wider distribution, which will cause consumers (and video store chains that buy movies to sell to those consumers) to assume that their movie, the first of the two movies, is an unethical knock off of the Regency movie which, in truth, came second.
Go on ahead and visit the REAL Girl Next Door>>>
Posted on April 13, 2004 in News by Film Threat Staff
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