Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Judge Gives Filmmaker's 'Variety'Suit the Boot

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 17: (FILE PHOTO) Actor Roy...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Iron Cross filmmaker Joshua Newton has another cross to bear--a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has ordered Newton to pay the legal fees of Reed Elsevier-owned Variety after allowing the entertainment industry journal's SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) motion offered in defense against Newton's complaint.

Newton's lawsuit alleged Variety solicited advertising revenues from the film's producers in March 2009, and promised to bolster the Holocaust-themed revenge drama's distribution and enhance its chances for an Oscar nomination, but reneged on the agreement and savaged the film in a movie review by Variety critic Robert Koehler in December 2009.  The film, which starred the late Roy Scheider of  Jaws & Seven-Ups fame, wrote Koehler, was "simply mediocre stuff, choppy and uncertain, with hints of ambitious ideas that fail to gather steam."

Variety no doubt considers the judge nixing Newton's case a boffo outcome.

The court tossed the plaintiff's suit, finding the complaint "fatally defective," and citing Variety's First Amendment right to publish an unflattering film review. In defamation cases, the "fair comment" defense generally protects arts critics, whose reviews constitute opinions, which by their nature, do not satisfy the false statement element of a libel claim.  Plaintiff's counsel plans to appeal, hoping to shift the focus from freedom of the press to what plaintiff alleged were Variety's deceptive business practices.


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