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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Accounting…

ali movie will smith
H89RDK Ali, (ALI) USA 2001, Regie: Michael Mann, WILL SMITH, Stichwort: Boxer Photo: United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Eriq Gardner
April 8, 2024

Back when I was legal editor at The Hollywood Reporter, few subjects caused me a bigger headache than the intricacies of deceptive accounting. While stories of industry veterans being swindled were abundant and undeniably captivating, the difficulty of unraveling these complex schemes made them particularly taxing. To be honest, back then I thought the days of public courtroom battles were numbered—not only because streamers have resisted sharing profits altogether, but also due to the prevalence of arbitration. But it seems I was mistaken.

On April 29, an entity called Library Rights Company (LRC) is scheduled to go to trial in Los Angeles over what it claims is the total disregard for its financial stake in three of the most famous films of this century—Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York (2002), Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000), and Michael Mann’s Ali (2001). This saga, heretofore uncovered by any news outlet, is complex even by the notorious standards of  “Hollywood accounting.” It starts with a 2019 statement from Lionsgate Entertainment that purported to show that these blockbuster movies, which had collectively raked in nearly half a billion dollars in worldwide box office, had subsequently earned a mere $900,951.