French film production and distribution company claims the deal, which provided a catalogue of 21 films to the streaming giant, breached a prior VOD rights agreement between the two distributors.
Who knew children’s films could cause this much drama? Say it ain’t so, Totoro! French film production and distribution company StudioCanal is suing fellow producer-distributor Wild Bunch and subsidiary Wild Bunch International for a deal struck with Netflix for Studio Ghibli film catalogue streaming rights. StudioCanal claims that Wild Bunch’s 2019 deal with Netflix, which introduced a catalogue of 21 Ghibli films to the streaming giant, breached a prior VOD rights agreement between the two distributors.
Netflix’s deal was considered a triumph given the Japanese animation company’s aversion to digital streaming platforms, and Wild Bunch International was specifically credited for making the deal a success. Interestingly, the legal battle remains between distributors only, as neither Netflix nor Studio Ghibli are noted as parties in the legal proceedings.
According to Variety, court documents show that, “StudioCanal alleges the Netflix deal breached its own agreement with Wild Bunch relating to the license of 15 Studio Ghibli movies throughout the U.K. and Ireland, which was signed in 2015 and renewed in 2017 for a term of four years.” According to these documents, StudioCanal claims they were given exclusive “non-internet VOD rights,” and the competing Netflix deal led to “loss and damage” of sales.
Wild Bunch and Wild Bunch International, now separate companies, have fired back, stating “non-internet VOD rights” don’t exist (as streaming services require the internet), and therefore it is not clear what rights could have been infringed. The distributor adds that Ghibli was only interested in a “near-worldwide deal,” which only Netflix would have been able to deliver.
To make matters even spicier, Wild Bunch has extended a $1.5 million countersuit claiming fraud in StudioCanal’s accounting of receipts from their Studio Ghibli deal. The countersuit alleges an “abuse of process,” and that expenses labeled “Theatrical Revenue” in royalty statements were also applied to non-theatrical distribution methods, leading to “wrongful deductions” which ultimately resulted in breach of contract and monetary losses.
Whew. This feels like an episode of Gossip Girl, distributor edition. StudioCanal has not yet responded to the countersuit, nor have any parties given further statements or comments on the proceedings.