Saturday, June 7, 2003

Tourism bureau ordered
to fulfill ‘Baywatch’ deal

The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau
sought to have the contract declared void

The "Baywatch Hawaii" television series did not live up to expectations for attracting tourists, but a federal judge ruled that does not let the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau off the hook for promised financial aid to the show's producers.

U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway ruled Tuesday that no evidence was produced showing that Baywatch Production Co. made false promises about a tourism windfall when making a deal with the HVCB for financial aid.

The company sued the HVCB in 1999 to force the bureau to pay the last $352,000 increment of about $3 million in aid.

Mollway's ruling granted the company's request for a summary judgment, directing the HVCB to pay the $352,000 and heading off a trial scheduled for next month.

"My client is very pleased," company attorney John Lacy said yesterday.

The decision, he said, "validates their belief that HVCB was in breach of contract. They see a light at the end of the tunnel in collecting the final installment."

Then-Gov. Ben Cayetano called it a "coup" for the state when he lured the "Baywatch" television series to Hawaii after eight years of production in Southern California. The state promised to underwrite some production costs, including set construction at the Diamond Head sound stage and the Haleiwa beach where the show was filmed.

But viewership of the former top syndicated show dwindled, and the show was canceled in February 2001 after producing 44 island episodes in two years as promised in the contract with the HVCB.

"The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau respectfully disagrees with the court's ruling in favor of Baywatch, but in the interests of moving forward and avoiding further legal costs, HVCB will not appeal the judgment," said HVCB President and Chief Executive Tony Vericella in a news release yesterday.

The bureau sought to have the contract declared void because the company had not revealed that a distributor of the original show decided not to buy international distribution rights for "Baywatch Hawaii."

Mollway found that the company "explicitly refused to guarantee that 'Baywatch Hawaii' would have coverage 'comparable' to that of 'Baywatch.'" In its agreement with the bureau, the company did change original language about broadcasting in 140 countries to mention of episodes being shown in 100 markets.

"No experience in the international distribution of television series was required for Vericella to be aware that the international exposure ... of a series that had not yet been produced was contingent on a variety of factors and could not be predicted with certainty," Mollway ruled.

Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau

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