They’re claiming that CBS Corp. (likely via CBS Television Studios/CBS Paramount Television/CBS Consumer Products) which owns the show, has deprived them of money the network made from the merchandising bonanza the show spawned from the show’s 1974-1984 airing on ABC. They filed suit suing for fraud and breach of contract 4/19 in LA County Superior Court. Merchandise includes comic books, t-shirts, scrapbooks, trading cards, games, lunch boxes, dolls, toy cars, magnets, greeting cards and DVDs where their images appear on the box covers. But it was when the Happy Days slot machines made their way into casinos that the cast started to wonder where their share was. Happy Days is a five-level free spin progressive slot machine, where the number of spins increases during play, with three base games — Cunninghams Go Wild, The Fonz and Richie’s Big Night.
In an interview with CNN, Anson Williams, (Potsie Weber), Don Most (Ralph Malph), Marion Ross (Marion Cunningham) and Erin Moran (Joanie Cunningham) and the estate of the late Tom Bosley (Howard Cunningham), claim that they have not been given what they are owed. Ron Howard (Richie Cunningham) and Henry Winkler (the Fonz), are not part of the suit.
Williams said the show “represented to the public what the best of America has to offer. The friendships, the opportunities, the warmth. Unfortunately, now Happy Days also represents the worst of America — of what major companies are trying to get from it, trying to use it for, and forgetting the family it created.”
According to CNN, the actors’ contracts stipulate that they are supposed to be paid 5% from the net proceeds of merchandising if their sole image is used. The rate drops to 2.5% if it is a group image.
Said John Pfeiffer, attorney for the cast: “The issue is the five cast members of Happy Days were not paid for the royalties for their name and likeness–that being the use of their picture, use of their name in slot machines, in games, in greeting cards, in t-shirts, anything where you saw a Happy Days face of a character, they were not paid for that…The issue is that the studio made a promise to pay, they broke their promise — that’s breach of contract. Number two, they made a promise to pay, they purposefully didn’t pay, they broke their promise — the fraud.”
In a statement to CNN, CBS said they agree that funds are owed to the actors and have been working with them for quite some time to resolve the issue. In documents provided to the cast, CBS said it only owes them between $8,500 and $9,000 each for the last four years. Most of that money is from slot machine revenues.
But the actors argue that they are owed millions. Williams said they did not bring it up sooner as they were ‘busy with other things’ and thought CBS would give them what they were owed.
Marion Ross told CNN: ‘It takes a lot to make me angry because so often my expectations are so low. But the other day someone came up to me and said, “You must be cleaning up on those casinos”. And I said, “Well, what are you talking about?” And he said, “If you get five Marions, you get the jackpot”.’
She lost her California home to foreclosure recently and said the money would have made a difference.
In 1999, Moran did receive $692 for merchandising after she said she pressed the studio, which was then Paramount Pictures. In a document sent to Moran, Paramount said she was previously paid $8,229 for merchandising, but Moran told CNN she had not received that money.
According to CNN, Happy Days clothes are going to be available across Europe and bluetooth sets will be coming to the U.S. Plans are also in place for a Happy Days-themed lottery game.
RBR-TVBR observation: It is interesting that CBS had told the cast any monies owed were from the last four years. One would think the merchandising has gone on well beyond those four years. It may have something to do with legalities created in 2006 when the CBS/Viacom split took effect: CBS inherited Paramount’s TV program library then, with the new Viacom keeping Paramount’s films. Interview can be viewed