STX sued for allegedly dropping Dave Bautista thriller ‘Killers Game’

And for intentional interference with a contract

STX is being sued for allegedly withdrawing from a movie that it agreed to distribute and in limiting its chances of finding other distributors.

Killer’s Game, an adaptation of Jay Bonansinga’s novel, had Dave Bautista (Avengers: Endgame) in the lead role. Californian company Endurance Media said it owns the film rights to Bonansinga’s book and claims that STX had done a deal to distribute it.

Now, STX is facing a multi-million-dollar breach of contract in a lawsuit launched by Endurance Media on Tuesday (October 1).

It comes after a series of delays in producing the film. According to the lawsuit, Jason Statham was originally attached to play the lead and DJ Caruso was set to direct. Elsewhere in the complain Endurance Media says that STX expressed interest in financing the project in early 2018 but after multiple delays Statham backed out and was replaced by Bautista.

Dave Bautista

The film, which tells the story of a terminally ill assassin who puts on a contract on his own life only to find his diagnosis was incorrect, has been stalled as – according to Endurance’s lawsuit – STX has now left the company without a domestic distributor and has “deliberately intended to prevent Plaintiffs [Endurance Media] from selling the international rights to the Picture [Killer’s Game]” [via Hollywood Reporter].

Earlier this year STX announced at CinemaCon that it was working with Bautista on a new film but later expressed concern about the financing arrangement. As a result Endurance agreed to co-finance it.

What followed was concerns, Endurance alleges, from key stakeholders that STX’s “enthusiasm” for the project was lacking. Endurance added that it suspected STX may not have been able to obtain loans for its 50 per cent share of the approved $48.75 million budget. The complaint also stated that STX asked to change the deal again so that it would only be the domestic distributor for the film and not provide financing.

From June to August 2019, Endurance purports that STX was actively involved in making decisions to do with talent as well as with international distribution. Endurance alleges that STX agreed to distribute the film to at least 1,500 US cinemas in exchange for a 10 per cent distribution fee and potential for a share of the revenue.

Jason Statham

Jason Statham

However, at last month’s Toronto International Film Festival the film’s international sales agent announced via email that the movie was on the market. John Friedberg, president of STX’s international division, responded, saying that STX had dropped out of the project because, according to the lawsuit, “producers were not able to deliver a talent package or production budget that made any sense.” This was with regards to Statham’s departure.

The lawyer for Endurance Media, Jeremiah Reynolds, wrote in the complaint: “Friedberg’s blatantly false and defamatory email not only was a breach of the Agreement but also was deliberately intended to prevent Plaintiffs from selling the international rights to the Picture.”

The Hollywood Reporter writes further that an Endurance lawyer emailed STX and said as much, and, in response, STX notified Endurance it was withdrawing.

“STX’s breach of its agreement with Endurance has left the Picture with no domestic distributor,” Reynolds continues in the complaint. “While Plaintiffs are continuing to search for domestic and international distributors, the confusion in the marketplace caused by STX and Friedberg has made buyers reluctant to pursue the licensing of the film. It appears likely that the Picture will not be able to proceed in its entirety.”

STX is being sued for breach of contract and of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and intentional interference with contract, among other claims, and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages of at least $20 million.

Spokesman for STX Steve Elzer told The Hollywood Reporter yesterday (October 3): “This lawsuit is baseless and ignores fundamental facts. STX was never contractually obligated to finance or distribute this film, and Endurance’s announcement of the studio’s involvement at the Toronto International Film Festival was false, harmful, and inexcusable. We look forward to aggressively presenting the facts of our case as this issue is arbitrated.”