‘Walking Dead’ producers have struck a new blow in the battle for profits on the hit zombie show

A Los Angeles judge has dealt another blow to The Walking Dead’s producers, who have been fighting for a bigger share of the hit zombie show’s profits from their distributor AMC Networks for years.

LA County Superior Court Judge Daniel Buckley, who has presided over the case for the past five years, on Wednesday dismissed most of the producers’ claims that AMC cheated them out of hundreds of millions in profits from the series and its spin-offs.

The decision is the latest in years of wrangling over the fortune generated by the series based on Robert Kirkman’s comics. Kirkman is among the group of producers suing AMC over profits from the hit series.

“This is the second time the court has dismissed the plaintiffs’ principal claims and dismissed their attempt to rewrite their contracts in search of an unjustified windfall,” AMC attorney Orin Snyder said in a statement.

Attorney Sheldon Eisenberg, representing the producers, said they would appeal the decision.

“The court’s legally inexplicable ruling dismissing the plaintiffs’ claims by operation of law based on AMC’s bad faith only compounded Judge Buckley’s previous failures in dismissing the express contract claims in 2020.”

The case has been closely watched for insight into the murky world of Hollywood finance and is part of a wave of battles between creators and distributors for profits as streaming becomes the dominant form of distribution.

Last summer, AMC reached a $200 million settlement with The Walking Dead’s first showrunner, Frank Darabont, and the Creative Artists Agency for the series’ streaming earnings.

Darabont sued AMC in 2013 after he was fired from the show, alleging that the network deprived him of millions in profits through improper and abusive “self-dealing.”

As Hollywood’s major studios have created their own streaming platforms, proprietary trading has become a greater threat to show creators, a situation where studios make a show and instead of having a broad field of bidders for the distribution rights, more advantageous deals complete with their own streaming platforms.

Kirkman and other producers first sued AMC in 2017, claiming that they received profits from just two of the 10 years that the highest-rated show in cable television history aired. The case involved a complex analysis of producer contracts and the network’s calculation of profits from the show.

In 2020, Buckley decided the cable network, which made its name with “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” hadn’t broken its contracts with the producers.

The following year, however, the court allowed the manufacturers to pursue AMC in an expanded lawsuit for breach of an implied obligation of good faith and fair dealing.

AMC filed a motion in January to drop the charges against the producers.

On Wednesday, Buckley granted that request but allowed the producers to proceed with more limited claims.

Hollywood has already seen several major profit-sharing judgments.

In 2019, arbitration resulted in a $178.7 million judgment against 20th Century Fox Television over the series Bones. The exemplary award was later reduced to $50 million in favor of Fox crime series stars Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz and two producers. The case was later settled for an undisclosed amount.

In 2010, Disney was ordered to pay the creators of the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire $269 million in the largest award in a profit-sharing case.

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