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'Spider-Man' director countersued for breach of contract

The entertainment industry is powered in large part by expectations. Producers of television shows, feature films and theatrical productions invest and make money based on speculations that the material within will appeal to paying audiences and advertisers. When a production fails to live up to projections and doesn't rake in the profits everyone involved hoped it would, there can be both financial and legal consequences. Sometimes lawsuits can surface afterward even if the movie, TV show or play is profitable.

A good example of this is the Broadway production of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." You may have heard about the problems that plagued the production from the start, including the injuries of four of the actors. Although the production ultimately proved to be a money maker, there's been some legal wrangling between the lead producers and the director, who's being sued for breach of contract for her alleged refusal to collaborate or make requested changes to the show.

The director filed her own lawsuit back in November, contending that although much of the show was rewritten, the final script still had about one-fourth of her own ideas in it, for which she deserved royalties. The producers countersued, saying that she refused to deliver the family-friendly script they requested, instead delivering a "dark, disjointed and hallucinogenic musical involving suicide, sex and death," according to their lawsuit. The producers say they had to fire the director and hire others to create a new version of the show; therefore, she didn't deserve royalties to the Broadway show or any subsequent productions elsewhere.

This case is one of many in the entertainment world that have come up because a production tanked or turned out radically different from the original treatment. It's a good illustration of the importance of clear language in contracts. The more specifically demands and expectations are laid out at the beginning, the easier it is for someone filing a breach of contract suit to win in court when things don't go according to plan.

Source: NJ.com, "Not a spider fan: 'Spider-Man' Broadway producers countersue Julie Taymor," Vicki Hyman, Jan. 18, 2012

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