In November 2009, Variety had approached Iron Cross director and producer Joshua Newton about a promotional deal for his film. Eventually Newton agreed to a $400,000 ad package with Variety in hopes of capturing the Academy’s attention in time for the Oscars.
The suit, filed a little over two months ago, accused Variety of contractual breach, fraud and deceit, and unfair business practices. A Los Angeles Superior Court dismissed the case on first-amendment grounds.
In between, Variety pulled down the offending review and subsequently reposted it. The suit has accompanied a financially-motivated newsroom reshuffling at Variety and another legal dispute in which Variety itself sued punk band The Vandals for inappropriate use of the publication’s logo font.
UPDATE: Timothy McGonigle, attorney for Calibra Pictures, which produced Iron Cross, has issued a statement saying he intends to appeal the decision:
This is not a complaint about Variety’s right to release a review. This is a complaint about the questionable business practices of Variety. It is a complaint about Variety approaching Calibra and persuading it to become Calibra’s exclusive media partner by paying $400,000 to Variety. It is a complaint about Variety taking money from the filmâ€™s producers and promising to help obtain distribution for the film and help obtain an Academy Award nomination for Roy Scheider.
Variety is attempting to hide behind their alleged first amendment rights. It is unconscionable that Variety would hide behind their first amendment right in order to perpetrate their unfair business practices on unsuspecting filmmakers.
This is a case of first impression, not protected by the first amendment rights, and we expect to prevail in the Court of Appeal.