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Woody Allen sues Amazon Studios for reneging on movie deal

Oscar-winning filmmaker says studio terminated deal without basis

Woody Allen is suing Amazon Studios for backing out on a deal to finance and distribute his movies.
Woody Allen is suing Amazon Studios for backing out on a deal to finance and distribute his movies. (Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – Oscar-winning director Woody Allen is suing Amazon Studios for breach of contract, claiming it reneged on a deal to finance and distribute his future films without legal basis.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in New York federal court, seeks more than $68 million in damages.

According to the lawsuit, Amazon backed out of its agreement with Allen and his production company in June after Dylan Farrow became more vocal about her accusation that her father had molested her.
Farrow, 33, is Allen's daughter with actress Mia Farrow, who was romantically involved with the filmmaker from 1980 to 1992.

"Amazon has tried to excuse its action by referencing a 25-year-old, baseless allegation against Mr. Allen, but that allegation was already well known to Amazon (and the public) before Amazon entered into four separate deals with Mr. Allen -- and, in any event it does not provide a basis for Amazon to terminate the contract," the lawsuit said. "There simply was no legitimate ground for Amazon to renege on its promises."

According to the lawsuit, Amazon entered into an agreement with Allen's Gravier Productions to finance and distribute at least four Allen films. The lawsuit claims Allen completed the first, "A Rainy Day in New York," when Amazon "simply refused to make its guaranteed payment and purported to terminate" the contract.

The lawsuit indicates that Roy Price, the head of the studio at the time, told Allen he wanted Amazon to be the "home" for Allen's movies for the remainder of his career.

"In December 2017, Amazon Studios' executives Jason Ropell and Matt Newman met with representatives of Mr. Allen and Gravier and discussed the negative publicity and reputational harm Amazon Studios had received because of allegations made against its former president, Mr. Price, and its association with Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Company," the complaint said. "The Amazon executives proposed a meeting in Seattle with Amazon.com Executive Vice-President Jeffrey Blackburn to discuss marketing for the film. Although that meeting did not take place, Mr. Ropell, Mr. Newman, and Amazon Studios' associate general counsel, Ajay Patel, confirmed to Mr. Allen and Gravier's representatives in January 2018 that Amazon Studios would release 'A Rainy Day in New York' consistent with Amazon content's contractual obligation to do so, but requested that Mr. Allen and Gravier agree to 'push back' the scheduled date for the release of the film to 2019."

Allen agreed to do so, but in June he received a termination notice informing him that "Amazon does not intend to distribute or otherwise exploit the pictures in any domestic or international territories."
When attorneys for Allen and Gravier Pictures sought an explanation, they were given a "vague statement" by Amazon's counsel that the agreement had become "impracticable" because of "supervening events, including renewed allegations against Mr. Allen, his own controversial comments and the increasing refusal of top talent to work with or be associated with him in any way, all of which have frustrated the purpose of the agreement."

Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn attend the premiere of "Cafe Society" hosted by Amazon & Lionsgate with The Cinema Society at Paris Theatre on July 13, 2016 in New York City.
Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn attend the premiere of "Cafe Society" hosted by Amazon & Lionsgate with The Cinema Society at Paris Theatre on July 13, 2016 in New York City.

The 83-year-old actor, director and writer was the subject of tabloid news when he admitted in 1992 that he had fallen in love with adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn. They later married and adopted two children.

Allen won Oscars for writing the screenplays to 1977 best picture winner "Annie Hall," "Hannah and Her Sisters" (1986) and "Midnight in Paris" (2011). He also won an Oscar for directing "Annie Hall."