CAMDEN, Maine — Best-selling Maine writer Tess Gerritsen is dropping her $10 million lawsuit against Warner Bros. over the studio’s Oscar-winning 2013 movie “Gravity.”
Gerritsen of Camden wrote on her blog Monday that she made the decision after the court ruled twice that Warner Bros. “need not honor and is not responsible” for the film rights to her 1999 book, also called “Gravity.” Gerritsen sold the film rights to her book for $1 million in 1999 to New Line Productions, a company that was purchased by Warner Bros. seven years ago.
“This ruling leaves absolutely no remedy for a writer in my situation,” Gerritsen wrote on her blog. “The brutal financial and emotional costs of continuing the fight for years to come, against adversaries who have unlimited resources and are willing to use them against me, and the unlikelihood that we will ever be allowed in this courtroom to present our evidence, have made me decide to end my efforts.”
A Warner Bros. spokesperson said Tuesday afternoon that the company had no comment about the lawsuit.
Gerritsen had sought a minimum of $10 million of the film’s $700 million in gross box-office earnings, based on the contract she signed in 1999. The contract specified Gerritsen would receive a $500,000 production bonus and 2.5 percent of the film’s net proceeds, if it were made. If the terms of that contract had been followed by Warner Bros., Gerritsen could have made an estimated $18 million from the film “Gravity.”
In January, Judge Margaret Morrow of U.S. District Court in Central California ruled Gerritsen and her attorneys did not provide ample evidence Warner Bros. is responsible for the actions of New Line. Morrow granted a motion to dismiss the suit, but she also gave Gerritsen 20 days to revise and amend her complaint.
According to the website for Variety, which follows the entertainment industry, Morrow again dismissed Gerritsen’s case this month, concluding the author “failed adequately to allege breach of contract and breach of guaranty claims against defendants on a direct liability theory. The complaint similarly does not allege plausible claims against [Warner Bros.] on successor-in-interest, alter ego, and agency liability theory.”
The case was unusual, in that it was not a copyright case but one for breach of contract, according to Variety.
Gerritsen’s book is about a female physician-turned-astronaut who is stationed on a space station. Things begin to go terribly awry when the space shuttle she arrived on crashes, the space station is crippled and the single-celled organisms on which the astronaut was experimenting get loose and infect the crew.
In the film “Gravity,” medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, is on the space shuttle with astronaut Matt Kowalski, played by George Clooney. They are on a spacewalk working on the Hubble space telescope when a cloud of debris strikes the shuttle and the telescope. Stone is hurled loose from her tether, and together the duo need to make their way back to the International Space Station.
According to a statement that previously had been published on her website, Gerritsen believed the plot similarities were a coincidence until she received reliable information last year that one of the people who developed the film for Warner Bros. was familiar with her novel.
Gerritsen wrote Monday that the judge in her case decided that, while Warner Bros. exercised control over New Line Cinema, it’s impossible to find that Warner Bros. meant to assume all of New Line’s liabilities and obligations.
She wrote that when she sold the film rights to “Gravity” to New Line, the contract included a standard provision that even if film rights to the book passed to another studio, that studio would not be relieved of its obligations to Gerritsen.
“Even these robust provisions in my contract did not protect me,” she wrote. “In this era of endless studio mergers and acquisitions, how can we writers protect ourselves from those who purchase our intellectual property rights and make promises but later voice no objection when their parent companies or affiliates take control and circumvent those promises? I’m afraid the answer from this court is clear: We cannot.”
BDN writer Emily Burnham contributed to this report.