Entertainment Law Reporter
June 2006 Volume 28 Number 1

Producer Jean Doumanian is entitled to edit six Woody Allen movies for network television, despite Allen’s objection that proposed edits would affect films’ artistic integrity and entertainment value

Woody Allen and his long-time producer Jean Doumanian had a bitter falling out several years ago. Things got so bad between them that Allen sued Doumanian for allegedly failing to pay him some $14 million. After nine days of trial, they settled the case on financial terms that have never been disclosed. A few years later, though, one term of the settlement became public knowledge because another dispute arose between them a dispute over Allen’s creative rights and obligations.

Allen’s original contract with Doumanian’s company gave Allen creative control, including “final cut” rights, subject only to his obligation to deliver versions of his films that could be shown on network television. When they settled the pay dispute, the written settlement agreement gave Doumanian the right to “modify” Allen’s films so they would comply “with generally accepted Network Television censorship and/or standards and practices requirements.”

Six of Allen’s movies – “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Everyone Says I Love You,” “Deconstructing Harry,” “Celebrity,” “Mighty Aphrodite” and “Sweet and Lowdown” – were rated “R” and contained extensive profanity, and three of them contained explicit sex or nudity. Apparently, Allen didn’t deliver network-suitable versions, so Doumanian proposed edits, to which Allen objected.

The settlement agreement provided that future disputes would be resolved by a New York state court judge. And the task of doing so fell to Judge Bernard Fried.

Two experts testified for Doumanian that the proposed edits were necessary in order to license the movies for network broadcast. Time Magazine film critic Richard Schickel testified for Allen that the proposed edits would affect the films’ artistic integrity and entertainment value.

In a factually detailed opinion, Judge Fried determined that the proposed edits were authorized by the settlement agreement’s clause authorizing Doumanian to modify the films for “generally accepted network television censorship and/or standards and practices,” despite the creative control rights granted to Allen in his earlier contract.

Moses Productions, Inc. v. Sweetland Films, 2006 WL 1388489 , 2006 N.Y.Misc.LEXIS 1239 (N.Y.Misc. 2006)