Filmmaker Woody Allen sued Amazon.com Inc. for breach of contract, saying the e-commerce company’s studio unit backed out of a deal to finance and distribute his movies based on 25-year-old allegations it already knew about when it entered into agreements with him.
Allen is seeking more than US$68 million in damages.
Amazon Studios signed its first movie deal with Allen in 2016 when it acquired the rights to distribute “Cafe Society” and signed a multi-picture deal with the director the following year, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in New York on Thursday. But last June, as Allen prepared for a 2019 release of a new movie, “A Rainy Day in New York,” the studio notified him that it was terminating the agreement without explanation.
The notice came a few months after Amazon hired Jennifer Salke, a top TV programming executive, to run its in-house film and television studio after Roy Price resigned amid claims of sexual harassment. Allen said executives had met with him in December 2017 to discuss the “negative publicity and reputational harm” stemming from those claims and the studio’s association with Harvey Weinstein but agreed to proceed with the release of “Rainy Day.”
Pressed to explain the termination, the studio said the deal was “impracticable” due to “supervening events, including renewed allegations against Mr. Allen, his own controversial comments, and the increasing refusal of top talent to work with or be associated with him in any way,” Allen said in the lawsuit.
Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit.
Allen has been dogged by controversy for years over his marriage to Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of his former wife Mia Farrow, and by accusations of child molestation by Dylan Farrow, Allen and Farrow’s daughter, which he has consistently denied.
“Amazon has tried to excuse its action by referencing a 25-year-old, baseless allegation against Mr. Allen, but that allegation was already well known to Amazon (and the public) before Amazon entered into four separate deals with Mr. Allen -- and in any event it does not provide a basis for Amazon to terminate the contract,” lawyers for the director wrote in the lawsuit. “There simply was no legitimate ground for Amazon to renege on its promises.”
The case is Gravier Productions Inc. v Amazon Content Services LLC, 19-cv-1169, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.