Bergstein's Thinkfilm Hit With $1 Mil Arbitration Award

An arbitrator has taken a hit out against David Bergstein's ThinkFilm, ordering the embattled distributor to cough up about $1 million in damages to the producers of the 2006 mob drama "10th & Wolf."

Producer Suzanne DeLaurentis and executive producer Jeffrey Trott initiated the IFTA arbitration against ThinkFilm to recover damages for Think's alleged mishandling of the 2006 film, co-written and directed by Bobby Moresco ("Crash") and starring James Marsden and Dennis Hopper. Producers claimed they were promised a theatrical release and at least $250,000 in P&A spend but received only a "token" run of four weeks in theaters before being dumped on DVD.

In a detailed ruling, arbitrator Christopher Pibus found Think breached its arrangement with the producers and awarded $640,000 in damages and $275,823 in costs, plus prejudgment interest. A claim for audit expenses was denied. The July decision was just recently confirmed. Trott, a Pittsburgh businessman who says he put at least $10 million into the story of conflict between the Scarfo, Bruno and Gambino families in the early '90s,claimed he was willing to invest more money into a bigger release but a combination of Think's internal politics and lack of interest in a theatrical run doomed the film to only $55,000 in boxoffice.

According to the ruling, Think's former topper Mark Urman wasn't a backer of the film and refused to be involved in its release, leaving the task to others at the company. "The distribution of the picture was treated differently because Urman had abdicated his normal role as the person responsible for theatrical release of ThinkFilm titles in the U.S.," the arbitrator wrote.

Urman also sent an internal email suggesting the theatrical release would be "token."

"ThinkFilm's conduct was consistent with a 'token' theatrical release, in Mr. Urman's phrase, and falls short of commercially reasonable best efforts to distribute the picture," the arbitrator held.

In his damages analysis, Pibus found that the film should have made $3.75 mil theatrically and $4.35 mil total. Minus fees, P&A and other costs, that left $640,000 in damages, plus costs.

ThinkFilm and Bergstein are no stranger to litigation, of course. A few weeks ago we updated his caseload, including a lawsuit for alleged failure to properly distribute a movie, a judgment by a Las Vegas casino against Bergstein personally and a Canadian court order taking away ownership of the ThinkFilm name. Throw this latest adverse ruling on the pile.

The producers are repped by Hunter Eley of LA's Doll Amir & Ely. Thinkfilm was repped by Susan Tregub.