Truth certainly is stranger than fiction, as Spinal Tap’s continued success proves; generations of musicians have cringed at the quite relatable moments shown throughout the film. In a plot point that would have hit the cutting row floor for being too unbelievable, the studio that controls the film’s rights claim the film and related merchandise has only netted $81 in merchandise income and $98 in soundtrack income – over a 22-year period.
These details were revealed by Harry Shearer as part of the $400 million lawsuit launched against the Vivendi company by him and fellow Spinal Tappers Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Rob Reiner.
Shearer told Bloomberg things started to appear fishy in 2013: “We were approaching the 20th anniversary, and this low-burning light bulb begins to go off. ‘Hey, wait a minute – what’s going on here?’” That’s when the paltry figures above were offered, leading Shearer to start the legal proceeding, for “fraudulently under-reported the revenues owed.”
Shearer claims a figure of $1.6 million for VHS and DVD revenue was never reported to the four, and buried in paperwork that also includes $2.5 million in marketing expenses incurred years after the film was released.
“You get told over and over again, ‘Well, it’s just a little cult picture. It doesn’t mean anything'”, Shearer stated. “We love what we do and they know it. That’s a rusty bayonet that we’ve handed them, to insert in our innards whenever they want.”