Aretha Franklin Amazing Grace Documentary Producer Sues Distributor Neon Over

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Alan Elliott, producer of the 2018 Aretha Franklin documentary Amazing Grace, has launched a lawsuit against Neon for acquiring the film’s distribution rights fraudulently, among other claims of mismanagement and suspicious accounting. In the New York Supreme Court suit, viewed by Pitchfork, Elliott’s Amazing Grace Movie, LLC alleges that Neon and its CEO, Tom Quinn, began “with a false and premature press announcement that Neon had already acquired those rights when in fact it had not.”

Elliott claims that, after “strong-arming” Amazing Grace into a distribution deal, Neon stifled the film’s reach. “Neon resorted to good old ‘Hollywood accounting’ and continues to kneecap the Picture’s distribution in order to avoid paying performance bonuses to Plaintiff and the Picture’s producers,” the suit reads. Elsewhere in his suit, Elliott alleges that Neon “abandoned any effort to promote the Picture’s awards run.” Pitchfork has contacted representatives for Neon for comment.

In a statement to Pitchfork, Maurice D. Pessah, the attorney representing the production team, said, “Neon cannot credibly claim that it properly honored Aretha Franklin’s legacy. Neon and Mr. Quinn promised to undertake efforts to market Amazing Grace to the African American community, for whom the film holds particular significance.  In reality, Neon treated the film like a commodity, and even attempted to bully the producer into retracting his requests for an accounting of revenues.”

Amazing Grace documented the singer’s recording of her 1972 album of the same name over the span of two days at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. The Southern California Community Choir served as her backing vocal group, with the whole band under the direction of James Cleveland. The film had been shelved for more than 40 years due to technical problems and Franklin’s dissatisfaction with the original material.

Revisit Pitchfork’s feature “5 Takeaways from Amazing Grace, the Long-Lost Aretha Franklin Concert Film.”


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This article was originally published on Thursday, August 11 at 9:01 p.m. Eastern. It was last updated on Friday, August 12 at 9:37 a.m. Eastern.

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