By James Hirsen Special for USDR
After another lackluster summer box-office weekend, “The Purge: Anarchy,” a newly released horror sequel, ambled in below expectations. The movie came in second behind “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” which had actually debuted one week ago.
The “Purge” sequel took in $28.4 million, which is significantly lower than the $34.1 million that the original Universal offering had brought in on its debut weekend.
Studio executives are taking some comfort in the low cost layout that was expended for “Anarchy,” which was reportedly $9 million. However, Universal has an unexpected legal headache with which it must deal in connection to the terror movie and its latest sequel.
On the very day that “The Purge: Anarchy” opened domestically, a lawsuit was filed in federal court against Universal, United Talent Agency, and James DeMonaco, the individual who directed and wrote the script for the sequel as well as the original film.
Both the original “Purge” and the sequel are based on the fictitious premise that the United States sets aside 12 hours per year, a time period in which criminal activity is officially allowed and violence and mayhem ensue as a result.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit against the aforementioned parties is a writer named Douglas Jordan-Benel, who claims that the plot for the original 2013 film, “The Purge,” was unlawfully taken.
Jordan-Benel alleges in the complaint that his script, titled “Settler’s Day,” is substantially similar to the original “Purge” in its characters, setting, dialogue, and sequence of events.
The lawsuit states, “The plot in both works [“The Purge” and “The Purge: Anarchy”] is also virtually identical. A family must withstand a siege of its fortified home on the one night of the year that killing is legal.”
Jordan-Benel has apparently retained the services of the highly credible Richard Walter, a professor at the Film School of the University of California, Los Angeles. Walter is purportedly serving as an expert on the issue of whether the works are substantially similar.
The complaint contends that “according to Walter, the similarities between Settler’s Day and the Shooting Script are so striking that it is a virtual impossibility that the latter could have been created independently from the former.”
An additional element that is difficult to prove in a copyright infringement action is one that involves whether the defendant(s) had access to the work in question. According to the facts alleged in the lawsuit, the element of access appears to be satisfied.
The complaint alleges that Jordan-Benel’s script was submitted in 2011 to two agents at United Talent Agency by Jordan-Benel’s manager at the time, Adam Peck of Synchronicity Management, in order to pursue movie and television production opportunities. The two agents were identified in the complaint as David Kramer and Emerson Davis.
The plaintiff asserts that in July 2013, Davis wrote in an email that he had read Jordan-Benel’s script but “had a difficult time buying into the premise of Settler’s Day.” At that time, “The Purge” had already become a box-office hit.
A highly significant factual claim in the complaint is that “Purge” writer DeMonaco is represented by Charlie Ferraro, who was also an agent at United Talent Agency, with the complaint additionally asserting that Kramer “directly supervises” Ferraro at the agency.
To compensate the writer for his claim that the named defendants have infringed on his copyright, Jordan-Benel is seeking credit for his writing, an injunction to stop further distribution of the film, and $5 million.