‘Road House’ screenwriter sues Amazon to block movie remake

By Thomson Reuters Feb 27, 2024 | 5:19 PM

By Blake Brittain

(Reuters) – Writer Lance Hill sued Amazon.com on Tuesday to halt its upcoming remake of the 1989 film “Road House,” arguing that the film violates his rights in the original’s screenplay.

Hill said in the California federal court lawsuit that Amazon never received a license to remake his screenplay after he reclaimed his copyright in it. He requested an unspecified amount of monetary damages and a court order to block Amazon from distributing the movie without a new license.

The remake, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, is set to debut at the South by Southwest festival in Texas on March 8 and then move to Amazon’s Prime Video streaming platform on March 21.

An Amazon MGM Studios spokesperson said the lawsuit was “completely without merit.”

Hill’s attorney, Marc Toberoff, said that major studios should “respect the fundamental rights and artistry of creators on whose sweat and toil their empires are based.”

The lawsuit said Hill wrote the “Road House” screenplay in 1986 and transferred his rights to the film’s producer United Artists later that year.

U.S. copyright law allows artists to terminate transfers and reclaim their rights after decades in some circumstances. Hill told the court that he notified Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which owns United Artists, in 2021 that he was reclaiming his rights to the screenplay.

MGM allegedly responded that Hill could not reclaim the copyright.

Amazon acquired MGM in March 2022. Hill said he regained his copyright last November, and that Amazon set a deadline to finish the film the day before the termination became effective.

Hill said Amazon took “extreme measures” to meet the deadline, including using artificial intelligence to recreate actors’ voices during a Screen Actors Guild strike, but did not finish the movie until January.

Amazon’s spokesperson denied that the remake uses any AI in place of actors’ voices.

(Reporting by Blake Brittain in Washington; Editing by David Bario and Bill Berkrot)