Woody Allen breached his four-movie deal with Amazon by making statements about the #MeToo movement that damaged prospects for promoting his films, a lawyer for the online giant said.
Attorney Robert Klieger told US District Judge Denise Cote that the company protected itself after Allen made "public comments that at a minimum were insensitive to the #MeToo movement".
The hearing was related to a lawsuit Allen filed in February seeking at least US$68 million ($100m) in damages. The lawsuit said Amazon ended his 2017 contract in June without releasing a completed film, A Rainy Day in New York.
Allen was not in court. John Quinn, his lawyer, told the judge Amazon initially claimed it was ending the deal because of allegations against Allen, not because of his statements.
"The baseless allegations against Mr Allen are decades old," Quinn said. The claims were well known when Amazon signed its deal with Allen in August 2017.
Allen's adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, said in 1992 that Allen molested her when she was 7. Allen denies it. In 2014, Farrow wrote about the allegations and mentioned it in an interview last year.
Quinn said Amazon had since changed its explanation for terminating the contract to blaming Allen for making statements saying that the #MeToo movement should not become a witch hunt.
The lawyer said the company also cited claims that industry people wouldn't work with Allen. Regardless, Quinn said, Allen planned to produce a new movie this year.
In court papers, Amazon noted that Allen's son, Ronan Farrow, published an article in The New Yorker just weeks after the company signed its contract with Allen. The article detailed reports of sexual misconduct against movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein has denied non-consensual sexual conduct.
"The article became the catalyst for a broad reckoning over the persistence of sexual harassment in entertainment and other industries," Amazon's lawyers wrote. They said Allen then made public comments "suggesting that he failed to grasp the gravity of the issues or the implications for his own career".
They cited Allen quotes in a magazine article including: "You don't want it to lead to a witch-hunt atmosphere ... where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself."
They also noted that after Dylan Farrow recounted her memories of abuse in January 2018, Allen dismissed the statements in a newspaper article as "cynically using" #MeToo for attention. Klieger said the comments resulted in controversy "in Hollywood and outside of Hollywood".
As a result, the pictures could no longer be made or promoted, Klieger said.
After hearing both lawyers, the judge set a case schedule stretching into next year.