Subscribe To Why Ben-Hur Musicians Are Suing Paramount And MGM Updates
Last summer's remake of Ben-Hur wasn't exactly a movie that set the box office on fire. It's entirely likely that you had already forgotten that the movie was even released. However, there's one group that hasn't forgotten, because they're suing the studios. Musicians who worked on the score for the Ben-Hur remake have filed suit against Paramount and MGM because they allegedly have not been paid for their work and the studio has not even done the required paperwork to show what everybody needs to be paid.
The suit was filed by The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the suit has been filed in a California court because the composer hired to score the film is from California, although most of the movie was filmed in Italy. The suit alleges that not only have musicians who worked on Ben-Hur not been paid but also that the studios have failed to produce something called a "B-form report" which is essentially the paperwork which explains what compensation, including, wages, pension, and health benefits, each musician is owed.
The report from THR notes that this musicians' guild has been fairly active from a legal standpoint recently. In 2015 the AFM sued six studios at once for recycling too much music in their movies. Last year the guild lost another case against Paramount for outsourcing music. The collective bargaining agreement between the guild and Paramount reportedly states that movies produced in North America must be scored by the AFM's members. Paramount eventually won that case when a judge ruled that Paramount wasn't technically the employer of those working on the film, and as such was not responsible for the rules of the agreement.
One wonders if a similar defense will be offered here. Because the majority of Ben-Hur was filmed in Italy it could be that The American Federation of Musicians expects that to be an issue in the case. The guild appears to be focusing on the fact that the composer was base in California, and thus the studios should have to comply with the collective bargaining agreement.
Of course, the other issue may be that nobody at the studios wants to spend any more money on Ben-Hur. The film was an official summer flop that failed to even make back its production budget. The reviews were bad, nobody saw it, I had honestly forgotten I had even seen it until I began to write this story, and I even wrote about the film's 3D, which may have actually been the best thing about the movie, and it was mostly just "not bad."
Lawsuits are the cost of doing business in Hollywood. We'll see if this one turns out any better for professional musicians than the last one did.