The creators of “This Is Spinal Tap” Monday advised anyone with plans to produce public screenings of the mockumentary to apply for a licensing agreement before moving ahead with advertising.
Rob Reiner, Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean said public showings of the 1984 comedy not accompanied by licensing may be subject to a legal response.
“Simply put, please don’t advertise a showing of the film without approaching us for a licensing agreement,” Shearer said in a jointly issued statement. “The mechanics and economics of we four creators’ managing the film’s rights demand that we have full knowledge of, and give our approval to, all future showings of `This is Spinal Tap,’ no matter when they occur, or the size or location of the venue.”
The co-creators announced earlier this year that they established a wholly owned entity to manage the licensing of the film and all rights related to it. Reiner, Shearer, Guest and McKean have been in sole control of the film’s rights since January following a settlement reached in a long-running legal dispute with Vivendi and its StudioCanal movie division.
New licensing arrangements, now handled exclusively by Authorized Spinal Tap LLC, apply not only to the comedy and all of its featured characters, but also to trademarks and associated rights.
Reiner, who also directed and narrated “Spinal Tap,” said he and his colleagues were in the process of “wrapping our arms around” all aspects of a film that “has maintained its stature and influence over nearly four decades.”
Plans are in the works in the United States and Australia for showings at drive-in theaters and other venues, according to the film’s creators.
“We are making this request as the four individuals who created this iconic film,” McKean said. “It’s time everyone involved was properly recognized, and we can only accomplish that by seeing to it that public showings and performances are licensed and equitably compensated.”
Shearer sued the French conglomerate in 2016, accusing the company of manipulating financial information about the cult film and its spinoffs in order to underpay royalties. His “Spinal Tap” co-creators subsequently joined as co-plaintiffs in the Los Angeles federal court case.
The suit sought at least $400 million in damages for the film’s creators. Financial details of the settlement were not disclosed.
Shearer — known for voicing nearly two dozen characters on “The Simpsons” — co-created the comedy that follows the exploits of the much-troubled fictional heavy metal group Spinal Tap. Shearer portrays the group’s bass player, Derek Smalls.
According to the suit, the film and its music “remained popular for more than 30 years, and have earned considerable sums for the French conglomerate Vivendi SA. But not for its creators.”
The lawsuit alleged that despite two theatrical releases of the film and repeated re-selling of rights that earned profits for multiple companies, Vivendi insisted that the total share of worldwide merchandising income for the film’s four creators — including director/narrator Reiner — totaled $81 between 1984 and 2006, while total income from music sales from 1989 to 2006 was $98.
The plaintiffs settled their dispute with Universal Music over the soundtrack in November 2019.
“There is a rich creative and management ecosystem behind `This is Spinal Tap,’ and everything the film has come to represent for millions of fans worldwide,” Guest said. “We are now dedicating ourselves to managing how the film is distributed worldwide, so that existing and new fans will have the opportunity to enjoy it.”