Just a few months after the sole surviving member of Lynryd Skynryd, founding lead guitarist Gary Rossington and the estates of Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines, sued drummer Artimus Pyle to stop the release of a Lynryd Skynryd biopic, a judge has now halted the release. While it's extremely rare for a judge to block a movie from release before it hits theaters, that's exactly what U.S. District Court judge Robert Sweet did, preventing the release of Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash. Here's a portion of Robert Sweet's opinion, revealing why Artimus Pyle and the production company Cleopatra Films had no right to make this movie.
"Cleopatra is prohibited from making its movie about Lynyrd Skynyrd when its partner substantively contributes to the project in a way that, in the past, he willingly bargained away the very right to do just that; in any other circumstance, Cleopatra would be as 'free as a bird' to make and distribute its work."
The Hollywood Reporter reveals that, after singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines died in a tragic plane crash in 1977, the surviving members reportedly swore a "blood oath" to never use the Lynryd Skynryd name again. However, just a decade later in 1987, a Lynryd Skynryd Live album was released, followed by a nationwide tour. After the album and tour, all parties entered into a "consent order" with one of the singatories being Artimus Pyle, the Southern rock band's original drummer who tried to put his signature to the consent order "under protest." Cleopatra Films argued that they had the right to make this film about a "newsworthy event from the past," which the opposing counsel agreed to, except they cannot do use with Artimus Pyle, since that would be in violation of the binding Consent Order. Here's what the judge Robert Sweet had to say in another portion from his opinion.
"Cleopatra's consultations with Pyle were important because the Film incorporates, in substantive part, the depictions of Van Zant, Gaines, and the rest of the Lynyrd Skynyrd band, as well as major bits of their history. Cleopatra argues that their Film is Pyle's story, as no part of the Film depicts the history of Lynyrd Skynyrd without Pyle and which is permitted under the terms of the Consent Order. To an extent, this is true: there is no doubt that Pyle plays a central role in the Film. However, the inverse of Cleopatra's claim is true too: no part of the Film depicts Pyle outside his time with Lynyrd Skynyrd. As such, there is also no doubt that the Film is a film about the Lynyrd Skynyrd band. As the facts have demonstrated, none of the Defendants received the requisite authorization under the terms of the Consent Order in depiction of Van Zant or Gaines or in the use of the Lynyrd Skynyrd name, and therefore all have violated the Consent Order. As the Consent Order is a private agreement that is narrowly-tailored to protect the bargained-for rights of its signatories, with whom Cleopatra chose to do business, this argument fails."
According to the findings of fact from judge Robert Sweet, Cleopatra Films paid for Artimus Pyle to fly out to Los Angeles in June 2016 to discuss his involvement in this upcoming biopic. An interview conducted with Artimus Pyle was later used to help craft the screenplay, while Pyle signed a deal that entitled him to five percent of the film's net receipts, along with receiving a consultant and a co-producer credit. That deal also called for Artimus Pyle to narrate the film and have a cameo appearance in the film, while also contributing an original song to the soundtrack. When the word got out that Artimus Pyle was involved, Gary Rossington and the estates of Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines sent a cease and desist order. Cleopatra Films has said they will be making an appeal, but as of now, it seems unlikely that Street Survivors: The True Story of The Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash will ever see the light of day.