‘Ben-Hur’ Musicians Sue Paramount, MGM for ‘Failing to Pay’

Chariot-racing epic was a financial bomb that keeps on giving

The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada has filed a lawsuit against Paramount Pictures and MGM, claiming the studios did not properly pay the musicians who recorded the score for “Ben-Hur” in accordance with their contract.

The guild filed its suit Monday in the United States District Court in the Central District of California, alleging that Paramount and MGM did not pay the musicians the salaries, benefits and residuals due to them under the collective bargaining agreement governing their work. The federation also claims the studios failed to comply with reporting and studio access obligations.

“MGM and Paramount violated the agreement in connection with the scoring of the 2016 theatrical motion picture ‘Ben-Hur,’ a film they co-produced, by failing to pay or cause their subcontractor to pay the wages, benefits and residual compensation due under the terms of the agreement to or on behalf of the bargaining unit musicians who recorded the score for that film,” the complaint said.

“MGM and Paramount violated the agreement also by failing to fulfill reporting and studio access obligations expressly set forth in the agreement for purposes of ensuring compliance. The AFM is now suing to recover breach of contract damages, including all wages, benefits and residuals payable under the collective bargaining agreement.”

“Ben-Hur” was one of the biggest theatrical bombs of 2016, as the film grossed just $26 million domestically and $94 million worldwide on a budget well in excess of $100 million. MGM wrote down nearly $40 million related to “Ben-Hur” in its third-quarter earnings report.