Eddie Muller did a very good interview with William Friedkin back in July for Fandor. As Sorcerer heads to court this month, Mr. Friedkin’s comments provide a bit of “story so far” on the lawsuit.
William Friedkin: “I’ve sued Paramount and Universal because up until this year they allowed every organization that was legitimate to screen it—every university, film society, film club, the American Cinematheque, the AFI, Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, other film enthusiast clubs that wanted to run it.
They made a new print of it last year… a 35mm print that was beautiful. It was last run at the Cinematheque, at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. And after that, they [Paramount] started sending letters to a group called Cinefamily that wanted to run it, which has a huge subscription of film lovers, and Lincoln Center, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, who wants to run it in a retrospective. They sent them all letters, which would bounce to me from these organizations, saying ‘We no longer own the film, and we don’t know who does.’ And I said, ‘That’s not possible.’ So I called the guys I know who run these [studios], and they said, ‘Well, let me check it, we’re looking into it,’ and they couldn’t figure it out. The young lawyers who run these studios have no idea of the library, the legacy, or anything else—they’re just told to wrap up all 35mm, forget about all those film clubs and all that, let’s wean people onto digital, we don’t make any real money off of these screenings. So they sent these letters.
So, given that they put in writing that they don’t own the film and don’t know who does—I sued them with one of the best lawyers in Los Angeles. The suit is now in the Ninth Circuit to determine who owns it, to have them produce documents to indicate who the owners are. If they sold the film to, let’s say, a dentist in Des Moines—then tell me that!
We’ve asked them for discovery, all the documents pertaining to ownership, and it’s part of my claim, saying, ‘Well, if you guys don’t own it, I must,’ because I’m a profit participant. And I want it, and I can get it released tomorrow—theatrically as well as on home video.
So instead of simply settling, they’ve let it proceed. The presiding judge of the Ninth Circuit set the date of November of this year—November 26—by which to have a settlement conference, and end it before it ever gets to trial. And if that doesn’t happen, he has set it over for trial for on March 13 of 2013. And that’s where it stands. A settlement conference no later than the end of November, or a trial in March of 2013. And I don’t know—they may find some obscure thing in the law that says that they don’t have to tell me shit, but I am a profit holder.
I’m not suing them for money—and that’s in my suit—I’m suing them for the right to have the film shown by whoever wants to show it, and in my complaint I’ve said that if any money comes to me from this, I’ll donate it to film preservation and restoration… except whatever my lawyers want, and my lawyers aren’t looking to do this for money.”
UPDATE: From Mr. Friedkin’s Twitter account. The Monday he refers to is November 5. Stay tuned.