Scott Rudin Tries To Turn Mess Of Shutting Down Community Theater Shows… Into Publicity Stunt For His Own Show
from the just-let-them-do-their-show,-scott dept
On Friday, we wrote about the cartoonishly evil decision by producer Scott Rudin, who is producing a big Broadway reboot of To Kill A Mockingbird, written by Aaron Sorkin, to shut down local community theater versions of the earlier play version of the story, written by Christopher Sergel. Apparently, the contract with the Harper Lee estate for a stage adaptation of her book involved some odd clause that said if there was a showing on Broadway of Mockingbird, there couldn’t be any stagings near a city. And Rudin then had his lawyers threaten a whole bunch of small community theaters with cease-and-desist notices, claiming they may be on the hook for $150,000 in damages. All for small community theater operations which had paid their $100 license for the rights to perform the old Sergel version of the play.
As we noted in that post, rather than say this was about lawyers getting out of hand, Rudin doubled down on the idea, bizarrely making it sound like he had to block the productions:
“We hate to ask anybody to cancel any production of a play anywhere, but the productions in question as licensed by DPC infringe on rights licensed to us by Harper Lee directly,” Rudin said in a statement.
Just because something might infringe doesn’t mean you need to shut it down.
As that story got more and more attention, making Rudin look worse and worse, on Friday evening he announced a “solution” as told to the Hollywood Reporter: any theater that his lawyers had already threatened… would now be able to present the Rudin/Sorkin version of the play:
“As stewards of the performance rights of Aaron Sorkin’s play, it is our responsibility to enforce the agreement we made with the Harper Lee estate and to make sure that we protect the extraordinary collaborators who made this production,” said Rudin in a statement released exclusively to The Hollywood Reporter. “We have been hard at work creating what I hope might be a solution for those theater companies that have been affected by this unfortunate set of circumstances, in which rights that were not available to them were licensed to them by a third party who did not have the right to do so.”
“In an effort to ameliorate the hurt caused here, we are offering each of these companies the right to perform our version of To Kill a Mockingbird, Aaron Sorkin’s play, currently running on Broadway,” continued Rudin’s statement. “For these theaters, this is the version that can be offered to them, in concert with our agreement with Harper Lee. We hope they will choose to avail themselves of this opportunity.”
On the one hand, you could say (as Rudin seems to suggest in patting himself on the back in putting forth this “opportunity”) that letting small community theaters put on a big Broadway show while it’s still on Broadway is quite a rare opportunity. It is. But… still, the whole situation stinks. If he’s letting them put on that version, why did he threaten all of those community theaters with the potential of a lawsuit that would shut down most such theaters permanently first? And why not just let them perform the version they wanted to perform in the first place? Many of the theaters had already been rehearsing and preparing sets for the original version. And while it may feel like a nice offer to put on the newer version of the play, this whole thing feels like a cheap publicity stunt by Rudin after his cartoonishly evil moves earlier.
Just let them put on the play they wanted, rather than acting like you’re making a giant concession after you made yourself look like an asshole with stupid threats to bankrupt community theaters.
“I think it’s a good save from something that was, honestly, not the fault of the people who licensed it and not the fault of the people who owned the rights ? which people are us ? but I think ultimately for those who still can do it it’s a good solution,” said Rudin. “Everything that they licensed, we’ll stand behind with ours.”
A “good save”? Maybe stop patting yourself on the back and admit that you fucked up in the first place by unleashing lawyers with bogus threat letters to small community theaters? It’s a “save” in that you’re trying to save your reputation, but part of that is admitting that you made a mistake in the first place, rather than trying to turn this bad situation into free marketing for your own staging.
“Letting these theaters do it now is a substantial give for us, obviously, because it’s really not in our interest to have the play out anywhere but on Broadway right now,” he added.
“Substantial give.” Oh come on. All you had to do was not threaten community theaters and let them put on their own version. This whole thing stinks of a Hollywood producer thinking that his own play must be what’s really in demand and therefore he’s being oh-so-generous in letting people present it after he basically threatened to bankrupt a ton of community theaters. Those community theaters should tell him to take his offer and stuff it.