Ashton Kutcher’s ‘Butterfly Effect’ Producers Sued by Benderspink Over Profits

Company claims it had a deal for 50 percent of profits, but was told the film remained in the red for years

Benderspink filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday, alleging that it was blacked out from profits generated by the 2004 film, “The Butterfly Effect.” The company claims it had a deal for 50 percent of the movie’s theatrical and ancillary profits, but had been told the film was in the red for years.

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The company calls FilmEngine Entertainment, Roulette Entertainment, Highwire Films, and Anthony Rhulen as defendants in its suit. Bender-Spink, Inc. is represented by Bryan J. Freedman and Jordan Susman of Freedman + Taitelman, LLP.

According to the legal filing, Benderspink entered into a written memorandum of understanding in 2003 with FilmEngine, its co-producer in the Ashton Kutcher-starring film. Roulette was doing business as FilmEngine at the time, while Highwire was a wholly owned subsidiary, while Rhulen was cited as president and/or CEO of all three entities, thus their status as co-defendants in the suit.

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According to the alleged memorandum of understanding, Benderspink was to receive 50 percent of all “net profits derived from the exploitation of the picture and all ancillary, subsidiary and derivative rights therein on a worldwide basis.”

And yet, according to the suit, defendants told Benderspink for years that the film was still in the red, and thus they weren’t owed anything. The suit then alleges that they discovered in 2012 that the film had indeed gone into the black after the defendants had completed an audit of the film’s distributor, New Line Cinema, and FilmEngine received a substantial payment as a result.

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Desiring to acquire the records and books necessary to perform their own accounting of the film’s profitability, Benderspink alleges that FilmEngine has consistently ignored their requests for data. According to Box Office Mojo, the worldwide gross for the film is just over $96 million. Its production budget was $13 million, though that figure generally doesn’t include marketing and other costs.

Bender-Spink, Inc. alleges fraud, breach of written contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The company is demanding a jury trial and seeking an accounting of the film’s profits, or lack thereof, as well as unspecified damages, legal costs, and interest on their take in the film’s profits.