“The Walking Dead” co-creator Robert Kirkman and executive producers Gale Anne Hurd, Glen Mazzara and David Alpert have filed a lawsuit against AMC, claiming the company cheated them out of profits from the hugely successful series.
In the complaint filed in Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the producers argue that AMC “exploited their vertically-integrated corporate structure” to keep the “lion’s share of the series’ enormous profits for itself and not share it with the Plaintiffs, as required by their contracts.”
The lawsuit follows in the footsteps of the zombie drama’s other co-creator Frank Darabont, who is demanding $280 million from the company in a separate suit.
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The suit claims that AMC Network used it’s corporate affiliation with AMC Studios, which produces the show, to pay an artificially low licensing fee to broadcast the series. Kirkman and the other producers earn a percentage of that per-episode fee — amounting to $1.45 million for the first four seasons, increasing by five percent each season thereafter — meaning they were denied greater profits they would have earned if the network and studio were not connected.
The suit goes on to cite the “substantially larger” amounts paid for “Mad Men” and “Better Call Saul,” produced by Lionsgate and Sony, respectively.
“There can be no question that, if AMC Studio and AMC Network were not part of the same conglomerate, the story would be very different,” the suit reads. “As this case will show, if AMC Studios had been paid a fair market license fee … TWD would have commanded a license fee far above the costs of production of the series over the long term.”
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The producers also accuse AMC of employing “various other means to deprive Plaintiff’s of their fair share of TWD’s profits,” including unfair deductions taken by AMC for payments to other “Walking Dead” profit participants and “self-dealing and other wrongdoing” in connection to spinoff “Fear the Walking Dead” and after show “Talking Dead.”
“Plaintiffs tried diligently and in good faith to resolve these issues with the AMC Entities prior to filing this Complaint,” the complaint reads. “Regrettably, those efforts did not succeed. Having exhausted those efforts, Plaintiffs therefore, of necessity, bring this action.”
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In response to the lawsuit, AMC has denied any wrongdoing and called the move “opportunistic” on the part of the producer.
“These kinds of lawsuits are fairly common entertainment and they all have one thing in common – they follow success,” a network spokesperson said in a statement. “Virtually every studio that has had a successful show has been the target of litigation like this, and ‘The Walking Dead’ has been the #1 show on television for five years in a row, so this is no surprise. We have enormous respect and appreciation for these plaintiffs, and we will continue to work with them as partners, even as we vigorously defend against this baseless and predictably opportunistic lawsuit.”
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.
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