You Guys Can Go Ahead With That Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash Film, Says Judge
On Wednesday, a United States federal appeals court ruled that Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s surviving members can’t stand in the way of the release of Street Survivors: The True Story Of The Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash. In doing so, the Second US Circuit Court Of Appeals in Manhattan New York overturned a permanent injunction which had previously put the kibosh on the film, which centers on the 1977 crash that killed the band’s then-frontman Ronnie Van Zant, among others.
Street Survivors is named after the group’s 1977 album, and is based partially on the recollections of former drummer Artimus Pyle, who was a member from 1975 til 1991. He was one of 20 survivors of the accident in Mississipi, in which Steve Gaines, his older sister Cassie, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and copilot William Gray also perished.
Heirs of Van Zant and Gaines, along with Gary Rossington, sued Pyle and Cleopatra Records over the biopic in June of last year. A lower court judge ruled a couple of months later that the project violated a 1988 “blood oath” consent order in which the band members agreed that they would not exploit the Lynyrd Skynyrd name after the tragedy. US District Court Judge Robert Sweet said that the film would bring “irreparable harm” to the band name, and to the estates of the deceased band members. As part of the ruling, Pyle was allowed to tell his own life story, but was prohibited from using the band’s name or the rights of those who were killed.
However, after the Court Of Appeals’ 3-0 ruling, Cleopatra Records Inc. is now good to go ahead and distribute the film, the budget for which was reportedly $US1.2 million. The court ruling stated that the decree’s phrasing prevented Pyle from making a film about the history of the band, but not one about his own experiences within the group, including the crash from which he escaped. “That crash is part of the history’ of the band, but it is also an ‘experience’ of Pyle with the band, likely his most important experience,” the ruling reads in part. “Provisions of a consent decree that both prohibit a movie about such a history and also permit a movie about such an experience are sufficiently inconsistent, or at least insufficiently specific, to support an injunction.”
Cleopatra Records lawyer Evan Mandel called the ruling “a victory for filmmakers, artists, journalists, readers, viewers and the marketplace of ideas.”