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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Melissa McCarthy film promoter strikes back at Sesame Street

In this Tuesday, June 7, 2016 file photo, Melissa McCarthy arrives at the ELLE Women in Comedy Event at Hyde Sunset in Los Angeles. (Rich Fury / Associated Press)

NEW YORK – The chairman of a company marketing and distributing a new Melissa McCarthy movie says a lawsuit from the makers of “Sesame Street” could be “potentially catastrophic” for the film’s success if a judge agrees to order the removal of “NO SESAME, ALL STREET” from promotional materials including its trailer before its August release.

Adam Fogelson, chairman of STX Films, said the company believed the tagline was a “humorous, pithy way” to let viewers know that the film was not a “Sesame Street” production.

“It did not occur to us that a viewer would see and hear ‘NO SESAME’ and think ‘YES SESAME,’” Fogelson said in a written declaration filed Monday in Manhattan federal court.

McCarthy’s movie features the comedian as a human detective investigating grisly puppet murders with a puppet detective.

Fogelson’s declaration accompanied a response by lawyers for STX Productions LLC and its subsidiaries to a lawsuit filed last week by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind “Sesame Street.”

The lawsuit asked a judge to force STX to remove the Sesame reference or anything alluding to its trademarks in promotional materials. It also requested unspecified damages.

Fogelson said the film’s trailer already had been distributed to more than 5,000 theaters nationwide and in the United Kingdom, France, Ukraine, Russia, Belgium, The Netherlands, Finland, South Africa and Malaysia.

He said if Sesame Workshop succeeds, STX would lose weeks of in-theater marketing and visibility on the internet, ruining the “buzz” necessary for a successful movie launch.

Fogelson said it would cause “potentially catastrophic, incalculable costs to the success of the film” and possibly devastate it.

Last week, STX Productions responded to media questions with a statement from “Fred, Esq.,” which it said was a puppet lawyer.

The company dropped the puppet for its Monday filing, signed by actual lawyers. But it did not entirely give up humor, saying it could sum up arguments by Sesame Workshop as: “NO FACTS. ALL ARGUMENT.”

In a response late Tuesday, lawyers for Sesame Workshop insisted that the “NO SESAME, ALL STREET” tagline is not the disclaimer that STX insists it is. Rather, they said, it “sows confusion.”

They wrote that a disclaimer that is a source of confusion cannot be an effective disclaimer.

“‘NO SESAME’ does not describe ‘Happytime’ other than to reference ‘Sesame Street,’” the lawyers said. “Myriad other terms could describe ‘Happytime’ such as puppets or furry.”