Amazing Grace, The Aretha Documentary, Mired In Nasty Legal Battle Over Distribution

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Photo: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AP)

The Aretha Franklin documentary, Amazing Grace, narrates the story behind singer’s 1972 gospel album. Despite dealing with legal issues for nearly five decades, the film was finally released in 2018. However, it is now the subject of a lawsuit filed by its own producer Alan Elliott.

His suit is against distributor Neon and CEO Tom Quinn. Elliott claims that they acquired the film’s distribution rights fraudulently. There are also other allegations of mismanagement:

“In a plan commandeered by Quinn, Neon acquired the coveted domestic distribution rights to the Picture through a series of fraudulent actions, starting with a false and premature press announcement that Neon had already acquired those rights when in fact it had not,” the suit says.

Elliott also says the company and Quinn intimidated him into the deal and that the agreement, which closed two months later for a minimum guarantee of $1.5 million, has to be “backdated.” In addition, the lawsuit alleges that Neon refused to release the film in 1,000 nationwide theaters nor did it promote it in Black communities, as explained in the official filing:

“After chilling the market for other prospective bidders, Neon strong-armed Plaintiff into a deal that Quinn insisted be backdated to reflect the date of the fraudulent press announcement. Before a deal was inked, Quinn, a protégé of none other than Harvey Weinstein, even promised that Neon would especially promote the Picture in predominantly African American communities and theaters, a promise that was appealing to the Picture’s producers, among them Spike Lee. This was critical in inducing Plaintiff to ultimately enter into a domestic distribution deal with Neon, as there is a long history of Hollywood under-marketing Black films, and Plaintiff did not want to see this phenomenon bear out for the Picture.”

Elliott wants the U.S. rights back to the film so that Amazing Grace can screen around the country to celebrate its’ 50th anniversary. He is also seeking $5 million in damages.

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