‘Friday the 13th’ horror franchise scares up new litigation over profits

Jason grabs a victim
Derek Mears stars as Jason in New Line Cinema’s and Paramount Pictures’ 2009 horror movie “Friday the 13th.”
(John P. Johnson / New Line Cinema / Warner Bros. Pictures)

Another day, another fight over the profits from a Hollywood production — this time over a classic horror franchise.

Sean Cunningham, producer of the 2009 horror reboot “Friday the 13th,” sued Warner Bros. and its New Line Productions as well as Paramount Pictures, claiming breach of contract.

Sean Cunningham Films and Horror Inc., which holds the license to the feature, lodged the lawsuit Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging the studios “systematically misaccounted” his compensation from the feature.

Warner Bros. declined to comment. Paramount could not be reached for comment.

The ‘Walking Dead’ court cases are being closely watched because they provide a rare glimpse into the typically opaque world of Hollywood accounting.

March 3, 2020

The lawsuit is the latest among many legal disputes between producers and creators over the sharing of profits from hit shows or movies.

The creators of “The Walking Dead” fought their distributor AMC Networks over profits last year in court. In 2019, an arbitration resulted in a $178.7-million judgment against 20th Century Fox Television over the series “Bones.” The award was ultimately reduced and the case was settled for an undisclosed amount.


Cunningham, who directed and produced the original 1980 hit, said their agreements dated back to 1992 and he had the right to significant compensation from the film’s net profits, which included limitations on how the distributors calculated the figures.

The 2009 movie earned more than twice its budget on opening weekend and went on to gross $129 million to date, according to the lawsuit.

“Based upon the foregoing audit findings, Plaintiffs believe that they have been deprived of significant rightfully owed royalties for the picture and seek redress accordingly,” the lawsuit read.

It further alleges Paramount failed to credit millions of dollars in tax rebates and gross receipts from a pay TV deal, among other factors when calculating the gross profits, according to the producer’s audits.

The studio deducted millions of dollars in producer fees, box office bonuses and other costs improperly, and artificially inflated its distribution fees, the complaint states.

Cunningham further accused Warner Bros. of undervaluing or underreporting the feature’s merchandising revenue, home video returns and other third party license fees such as HBO and for U.S. film rentals.

The reboot was distributed by New Line in the U.S., and both New Line and Paramount were production companies on the movie, alongside Sean S. Cunningham Films, according to IMDb. Cunningham is listed as one of four producers of the movie, alongside Michael Bay.


Cunningham, a veteran director and movie producer, came to prominence working as a producer on Wes Craven’s 1972 directorial debut, “Last House on the Left.”