On the eve of Samuel Goldwyn Films releasing Mao’s Last Dancer in the US, producer Jane Scott has said she is going to take legal action against the Australian distributors of the biggest local box office hit of 2009.

The issue is over whether Village Roadshow and Hopscotch, who jointly distributed the film in Australia and New Zealand, did their best to minimise the risk of piracy and whether they are now acting fairly with regard to royalties.

Neither were prepared to comment when approached by ScreenDaily today although it is understood that Hopscotch may be issuing a statement shortly.

“Despite repeated assurances that it would be done, Village Roadshow/Hopscotch failed to apply Ripguard copy protection to the Mao’s Last Dancer DVDs a major error given that the film was still to be released in the US and many other key territories,” said Scott via a statement released early today through her publicist.

“When the error was detected by the producer, Village Roadshow/Hopscotch agreed to recall all the first-run DVDs and replace them with DVDs that were copy-protected. Now Village Roadshow/Hopscotch are attempting to deduct half the DVD recall costs from the producer’s, and therefore the investors’ royalties, despite the DVD master being delivered by the producer to Village Roadshow exactly to their written specifications.”

The film tracks the true story of dancer Li Cunxin from poverty in China to international stardom in the US and is based on his biography. Cunxin now lives in Australia, has had some success in the finance industry, and is sought after on the corporate speaking circuit.

Samuel Goldwyn announced in March that it had acquired US rights to the Bruce Beresford film after it grossed $13.8m (A$15.4m) in Australia following its Oct 1 release.