By Hayden Wright
U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet blocked the film Street Survivor: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash from production and distribution. His decision was based on a decades-old agreement signed by former bandmates, stating they would not capitalize on the tragic event.
After a 1977 plane crash killed Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines, surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd (Gary R. Rossington and Allen Collins) entered a “blood oath” with Van Zant’s widow Judy, vowing never to perform as “Lynyrd Skynyrd” again. The band’s 1987’s Lynyrd Skynyrd Live album thus triggered litigation, during which members entered a settlement agreement formalizing the “blood oath.” Under those terms, surviving band members could not participate in any financially motivated project purporting to tell the history of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Drummer Artimus Pyle signed the agreement “under protest,” but signed it nonetheless, reports The Hollywood Reporter.
Street Survivor was conceived based on Pyle’s memories of the 1977 events. The drummer was once involved as a co-writer and his firsthand recollections formed the basis of the script. Attorneys arguing in favor of the film made the case that Pyle has been interviewed about the plane crash over the years, so a film using his memories can’t be so different.
“Cleopatra [the filmmaker] 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,” wrote Judge Sweet.
He added that producers can make a Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash movie if they want: They just can’t get Pyle’s direct help.
“Cleopatra is free to make a movie about Lynyrd Skynyrd and/or about the plane crash. What Cleopatra is not free to do, however, is to make such a movie in concert and participation with Pyle in violation of the restrictions imposed on him by the Consent Order.”