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Breaking News: Judge Says Fox Owns Rights to Watchmen! Updated!

by
December 24, 2008
Source: New York Times

Watchmen

This may have just become the worst Christmas eve in history. The New York Times is reporting tonight that a federal judge in Los Angeles made a decision last Wednesday in favor of 20th Century Fox's claim that it owned the distribution rights to the upcoming Watchmen movie. As we all know, Fox first filed a claim against Warner Brothers in February but it didn't go through until August this year. Initially, the judge said that the issue at hand could only be settled at a trial, which was scheduled for early January. On Wednesday, however, the judge reconsidered and concluded "that Fox should prevail on crucial issues."

Judge Feess said in a ruling that, "Fox owns a copyright interest consisting of, at the very least, the right to distribute the Watchmen motion picture." Don't exactly flip out just yet, however, as this is not the immediate end to this rather ridiculous story. The judge also said that, "the parties may wish to turn their efforts from preparing for trial to negotiating a resolution of this dispute or positioning the case for review." As in, the two studios must figure out an agreement or else file an appeal to his decision. Considering I'm sure Warner Brothers wants to keep things on track for a March 6th, 2009 release, they most likely won't file for an appeal, as I'm sure it wouldn't even be up for review until after that date.

This is as good of time as any to reiterate that Fox is one of the worst studios in Hollywood, with my recent article on Taken being just one example of their stubbornness. I've said it before and I'll say it again, regardless of who literally does own the rights, this movie would never have gotten to the point that it is at without the support of Warner Brothers. Zack Snyder wouldn't have had the chance to make the movie that he did without their support. I hope they can work out some sort of behind-the-scenes deal with Fox, because I do not want to see this movie ruined. Stay tuned for updates on all of this as they arrive!

Update: Entertainment Weekly published an article that provided some extra details surrounding the situation. Contrary to popular belief, although Fox may have won this court ruling, it doesn't mean that much will happen to the film besides Fox getting some money out of it. From the article: "Warner Bros. has been asking Feess to make one more crucial ruling in this case… Now, I am no lawyer, but here's how I might rephrase Warner Bros.' position: 'Let's pretend for a moment that Fox is right in this matter. Judge, could you help us decide a fair price for Fox's rights? Because we can't.' Perhaps all along, Warner Bros. has been gambling/banking that the judge will 'adjudicate' a relatively affordable price for Fox's rights, or at least put a price tag on it that's much lower than the one Fox has been putting on it."

So what does all this mean? We don't know the answer to that question yet, but we're not the only ones worried. "Will Warner Bros. appeal? If it does, Watchmen's release could be held up by months. If Warner Bros. doesn't appeal, what will Fox get in return? A cash payout per Gordon's original contract? A cash payout plus penalties? A share of Watchmen's total revenues? Might Warner Bros. settle the lawsuit by selling or ceding the film to Fox? If Fox got control of Watchmen, would they release Snyder's film in its current 2 hour 30 minute form, or would they order him to (gulp) trim it or (double gulp) make changes?"

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  • Tyler
    Fuck.
  • Steven
    Wow just when i thought i couldn't hate fox more. When i first heard about this situation i thought there was no way in hell a judge would see things fox's way after waiting for a movie to be completely finished before filing a suit they could have done before the watchmen was even in pre-production. this blows. Alex Billlington you da man............but you could've waited till Dec. 26. Sly Fox sucks balls, i'm so close to boycotting every movie they come out with.(except for fox searchlight, they're awesome)
  • bill
    Alex, What do you think the odds are that Watchmen is delayed? It would seem impossilble for WB to relase the film if FOX claims ownership of it.
  • LeeMan
    if they push back the date three months before the movie comes out...god help us all
  • terces7
    FFFFUUUUCCCCKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sorry, but I really felt like that was necessary! This movie has to be saved from Fox at all costs! I would really, really fucking hate to see Zack Snyder's vision be torn apart by Fox. I really hope this is resolved and soon too. Merry Christmas to all by the way, but fuck this news!
  • Al
    :(
  • "This may have just become the worst Christmas eve in history." Oh No! The Sky Is Falling! What A World, What A World! * 1851 - Library of Congress burns. * 1865 - Several U.S. Civil War Confederate veterans form the Ku Klux Klan. * 1941 - World War II: Hong Kong falls to the Japanese Imperial Army. * 1941 - World War II: Kuching is conquered by Japanese forces. * 1942 - World War II: French monarchist, Fernand Bonnier de La Chapelle, assassinates Vichy French Admiral Fran├žois Darlan in Algiers * 1953 - Tangiwai disaster: A railway bridge is destroyed by a lahar at Tangiwai, in the Central North Island of New Zealand, sending a fully loaded passenger train into the Whangaehu River, and killing 153 people. * 1966 - A Canadair CL-44 chartered by the United States military crashes into a small village in South Vietnam, killing 129. * 1974 - Cyclone Tracy devastates Darwin, Australia. * 1979 - The first European Ariane rocket is launched. * 1997 - The Sid El-Antri massacre (or Sidi Lamri) in Algeria kills 50-100 people. * 2000 - The Texas 7 hold up a sports store in Irving, Texas. Police officer Aubrey Hawkins is shot during the robbery. wikipedia rocks my ass Oh and lets not forget how great a x-mas eve we had right after 9/11.
  • MrSammich
    Well I have an easy idea that most are sur to follow to get back at Fox executives. Let's all boycott their hundred million dollar picture "Dragonball Evolution", it is easy because it looks like crap anyway, no going to the theaters for it, no dvd, change the channel if it is on cable. LOL.
  • Wow, ain't this some bullshit.
  • trig.
    Shit!!!!!!! Fox, GTFO
  • Matthias Galvin
    :'(
  • Janny
    fox is gonna bleed WB as much as they can before they even consider the idea of considering WB to have right to distribue the movie WB should sell it to fox and then leak it to the internets
  • Kail
    I'm not ready for this 20th Century Fox ruins everything.
  • idc
    I'm sorry, but I don't care. I was planning on waiting for the DVD of "Watchmen" anyway. The dialogue in the trailers were awful, it looked like another "300."
  • nelson
    ^ you mean those whole 5 words your an idiot
  • #7 - First off, it was somewhat of a joke meant in context of this article. Obviously I didn't mean that literally... Goodness man!
  • Blue Silver
    Oh no! This is about to really BLOW!
  • anon
    Fox Searchlight, an independent film division of 20th century, this year alone, produced Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, and Choke, three movies which receive your highest attention and recommendation in the indie category of this year, and you say it's one of the worst studios in Hollywood?
  • #18 - Searchlight is a completely different division. First off, they did not produce any of the films you mentioned. They bought them at film festivals and distributed them. Secondly, they have an entirely different set of staff from Fox proper. And they operate much differently. Searchlight is the best indie distributor in Hollywood, but 20th Century Fox itself, is the worst studio in Hollywood.
  • CSpuppydog
    WHAT THE FUUUUUCK?!?!?!? Wow what could be worse? next thing I know someone is going to tell me Santa isn't real...
  • This kinda ruins the buzz i got off of timecrimes
  • Matador
    Anon just got his ass handed to him! What's up now bitch! 20th Century Fox sucks donkey nuts!! Why does this sort of thing happen at the most inopportune times. Christmas Eve ends like a big piece of crap. Awesome.
  • Squiggly
    Check the Judge's bank account. Seriously. So the fact that FOX sat on their hands for a couple of years while the film was being prepped doesn't weigh in the matter at all? The fact that they sat by and allowed another studio to make the thing thinking they were fully clear of any rights BS, only to have FOX jump out at the last moment and declare that they owned the rights to the film... that's got to have some kind of precedent somewhere in the books. @#18: FOX Searchlight is run separately. It's just a distribution chain, really. They goto festivals and buy up films that have already been made. FOX is a production studio that green-lights films and has a typical production environment. That studio is pretty literally falling apart, due largely to their apparent insistence that movies aren't any kind of art at all... they are just purely things you make and shove into a theater and market the hell out of so people will go see it and make you a ton of cash. They couldn't care less if the film is good (or even mediocre). They are responsible for people like Uwe Boll and Those dudes who make those 'Movie' movies having jobs. They literally couldn't care less. Until those films start tanking HARD in the theater, they will keep making them, because they cost $20 million to make and they make profit, or in Boll's case, the funding is through some loophole and FOX basically makes a bunch of free money. At that point the actual movie doesn't matter. The only goal at that point is to just sit as many asses into a theater as you can while investing as little as possible into the project. It's purely a numbers game at FOX. I have to work for those fuckers in distribution, and it depresses me that so many DVD's of so much retarded shit gets sold. I really wouldn't mind if I lost my job due to lack of business. Fox going under would only be a good thing. Here's hoping they don't decide to start focus testing this movie to the same lobotomized dickweeds who keep giving the thumbs up to their typical flicks, cause if they start cutting this movie up (and it's a distinct posibility given their insistence that scenes be cut so they have shit to sell more DVD's with (special directors unrated extended cuts and what-not)) I will not go to see it in the theaters or ever.
  • finch
    FOX sucks. Why didn't they start bitching about watchmen BEFORE the movie got made. what the hell is that? only after they saw snyder's take on it...that's when they start this drama? This just shows how desperate Fox is and how greedy they are on reaping the benefits of such a kick ass movie that's probably gonna suck now because of them. It would be funny if Fox got the rights...but no one saw the movie just to piss them off and boycott their selfish personas.
  • *Sound of a toilet flushing...
  • heath
    MEN!!! GATHER YOUR BEERS AND SOCKS! READY THE MOLOTOV COCKTAILS!!!! WE'RE GONNA RIOT THIS MOTHERFUCKER!!!!
  • Somehow I can just see it, Fox distributing this movie, handling the marketing in various un-interesting ways, cutting it down to be rated PG-13...jeesh.
  • Anon
    Still, as much as Warner did to get this movie done. They have lawyers and know fully well how IP law goes. Be sure they damn well knew they didnt have the rights when they tried to steal this thing.
  • Fuelbot
    Fuck. Tom. Rothman.
  • I am Raging
    FFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKK
  • Will S.
    This blows. Hard. I really want this movie to release on time. That being said, Warner Bros. really shouldn't have made the movie without the rights. Intellectual Property and Copyright laws aren't too difficult for WB lawyers to understand. The Judge is right legally, but morally Fox should have actually done something with the rights in the 16 years they owned them. Oh well. As long as the movie releases on March 6th, I'll be happy regardless of who ends up winning this.
  • This is way worse than 9/11, just saying.
  • Rick James
    Considering the sort of political bedfellows Fox has and supports, and their new tactic of letting other people make films then suing for control of them, I wouldn't be altogether surprised to see people physically going after Fox executives. Americans are generally too lazy and uneducated to take a stand, but it might just help turn our collapsing country around if they did.
  • kee
    God Damn Fox! useless piece of shite that they are distribute crap films, hardly backed Watchmen at all now all they can see is green dollars $$$$$$$ like they Say with Fox News 'Deceive the Masses' its a corporation that needs to be taken down (says a brit - who has to cope with itv)
  • andrew
    fucking fox i'm am seriously close to boycotting everything they are involved with period. ahhh i'm so mad right now. they better not fuck this up. i'm reading watchmen again right now and its making me excited. if fox cuts up or fucks with snyder's vision there will be hell to pay!!!!!
  • kee
    you need to take the British approach we dogs and guns to hunt Foxes until it was banned perhaps a similar approach could work here
  • Rupert Murdoch
    "The accumulated filth of all their eating and fapping will foam up about their waists and all the geeks and nerds will look up and shout 'Give us the Watchmen movie!' And I'll look down, and whisper 'no.'"
  • Sooooo does this mean 24 is canceled?...
  • Samma
    lol @ 37 I'm cautious at this point, but if it gets delayed or somehow mutilated, then I'll be really upset.
  • Ajax
    This is too perfect a deal for FOX. They don't have to spend a dime on production, because the film is already or mostly already made. And with all the fanboys out there who will see this opening day regardless of reviews will spend enough money that will go to FOX. Plus, they are probably going to cut some "questionable" scenes out. Rorsach burning a guy...OUT. The whole lesbian subplot that accumulates in the street fight... OUT. Veint getting away with it... that could be out too! This may very well be the end of any hope for a good Watchmen movie. Now I know what Alan Moore was talking about... Stupid Fox. Even thier Oscar winners are bad. Anyone remember Titanic?
  • This really, really fucking sucks. And get the stick out of your ass #7.
  • Chris C.
    You know, WB should've known better. I'm not saying FOX is 100% right here, but WB put a lot of this upon themselves by not making sure the film rights were secure from FOX. I'm starting to have doubts about the movie considering Snyder's filming style getting in the way of the story (regular motion, then slooooooow motion, then regular-mo again), so I probably won't even see it in theaters anyways.
  • Happy Jesusmus ya film geekers! Big baby jesusy love to you all! What a load of balls, money men aint funny men. It's got nowt to do with the film or story so I don't care, without people like Fox I suppose films of a grand scale wouldn't get made, but they do try and bend in some cheesy gimmicky marketing crap to everything, so it can be spoonfed to the masses. I dunno it's way beyond my comprehension. Of course the judge wants a little more studio battles so he can get his booze and hoes fund topped up.
  • Fuelbot
    fox is the worst studio on earth. they care nothing for quality (which is why wolverine will most likely suck). they already destroyed the x-men franchise. if they win, they'll chop this movie down to ninety some odd minutes and cut the soul out of it. it won't be the watchmen zack snyder made or that fans of the book deserve. it'll just be another crap superhero movie. notice that they didn't have shit to say until after that first trailer arrived. this could've been zack snyder's first true masterpiece and it sucks to think it won't see the light of the day. SAVE WATCHMEN
  • SillySil
    I'm with #1.
  • Darunia
    Fox will reach a point where nobody wants to work with them.
  • peloquin
    Way to set #18 straight Mr. Billington...I feel that he is simply a person who enjoys to argue no matter the context...I mean really, who would stick up for Fox for any reason? Well maybe he works there...
  • peloquin
    Does this give Fox the ability to recut the film if they don't like what they see...I could see them making this more "family friendly"...I'd be so angry. I wonder what Snyder's thoughts are on this whole situation. Does he want to stay with WB, go with Fox, or does he not really care. Seriously though, to wait till the film is complete to file a lawsuit is a real dick move and represents everything that's wrong with America. Sure it's legal to use loop holes to favor yourself, but it's definitely not ethical.
  • BaDGuY
    who cares...no one wants to see this crap anyway..
  • Cody
    wow #49 are you serious, did you look at the 47 posts before you complaining that this fucking sweet movie might get ruined. God pay attention before you post a really dumbass remark. But yeah This is one of the only movies i was REALLY looking forward to, I didnt read anything about the movie getting fucked YET but fox better not ruin this...and if they do Fox will be getting boycotted so much MORE hardcore I mean its not naive to say that this is probably the most anticipated movie of next year.
  • Chris C.
    I dunno, Cody, not all of us said the movie would be ruined (like myself, I believe it's probably already ruined). Maybe you should've read through those 47 posts before you made a dumbass remark.
  • Ivan Arcaya
    #37 Using Rupert Murdoch s name name was funny! As a third year law student; Warner Brothers at fault legally and the judge applied the law correctly. WB is as much to blame for hurting the movie goers expectations as Fox. I don't feel bad for WB. It's us who will suffer because of the greed of two large corporations. The probable scenario is as follows: WB and Fox will fight it out in court as per the advise of their law team. The lawyers only interest are retainers and billable hours and a trial benefits them financially. The longer the legal battle ; the wealthier the lawyers will get. The movie will be postpone indefinitely. When the lawyers have milked both sides sufficiently ; The case will be settled. Expect Fox to win if it goes to court. If they settle out of court and WB wins; We win too. However; whatever happens ; The movie will be delayed.. The good dates for 2009 have already been taken. Conservatively; The movie's earliest start date will probably be March of 2010.
  • peloquin
    #52...I'm scared now because you sound like you know what you're talking about...
  • Cody
    Yeah the word "might" negates everything you just said. plus you didnt really make any sense, you said not everyone thought it was ruined but then said you thought it was ruined w/e
  • Frankly Frank
    A good lesson in doing your homework before starting production. You don't own the rights unless you own the rights. Kind of like building a house on someone else's land. Stupid.
  • Dreckent
    Now i know what they did to Dragonball was in purpose. They appear to be stupid, but im starting to think the guys at Fox just like to fuck with peoples minds... OMG please Boycott Fox!!!
  • well someone bent me over and fuck me hard!!!! Goddamn terrible news, SHIT!!!!! FUCK FOOOOOOOOOOOX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Merc
    At this point, all Fox should be legally allowed to do with the production is slap their name in the credits... I don't think there will be any major damage. I hope not, at least....
  • The Doctor
    Fox BLOWS!!!!
  • Luis M
    * 1979 - The first European Ariane rocket is launched. Oh the horror, oh the humanity! ---- Anyway... if Fox decides to fuck up the movie, I'm betting that someone may "accidentally" release the uncut version on the Internetz.
  • Chris C.
    Cody, what I meant is that Zack Snyder's probably already ruined the movie. FOX is not going to do any more damage than WB did by allowing Zack, the "visionary" director who's never helmed an entirely original project in his life who's obsessed with fast-then-slow motion, to direct this.
  • Ajax
    I know Fox is an absolutely horrible studio, but what about Wolverine? That looks like a good film and it is made by FOX?
  • Ajax - I've never publicly reported this, but apparently Wolverine has been having some big behind-the-scenes problems of its own. Rothman and its director Gavin Hood have had all kinds of "creative" battles and so on. Despite the trailer looked good, apparently it's in a hell of its own that we most likely won't hear about much...
  • Darren
    From what I've heard a few people or a large number of them in FOX really didn't care for the X-Men series and tried really hard to stop the films from happening. Could it be the reason why Singer left the third one (or that the story kind of sucked) and could it be the same reason for the difficulties in Wolverine?
  • Lady Aerin
    They'll settle, WB has too much at stake in this. That still won't stop me from boycotting Fox entirely. In this day and age, it's not too hard to ensure that if they do produce any movie I actually want to see (unlikely), I can do so without giving them a penny.
  • Yeah I have to agree with Alex on Wolverine. The trailer looks great. However, the film might not turn out so great. But what film trailer doesn't look good when your expecting a big huge hit. FOX makes great trailers but doesn't deliver in the movie. Plus look at top ten grossing movies at Box Office Mojo. (It's all Star Wars, which were good but that's like 6 out of 10 movies right there) There biggiest grossing movies are so spaced out over the years it's like they make 1 movie a year that's a hit out of like what 15-20 that they distribute. How do they stay in buisness?
  • FOX MUST DIE
    I want that judge's name. They must die.
  • At least the update makes the pain go away SLIGHTLY.
  • Jaf
    now we know who watches the watchmen FOX's greedy ass, that's who Prolly' jealous that TDK owned X3
  • Fox Wins
    Well Alex Fox has pretty much won this battle...Does this mean we won't be seeing you at the movie? Time to boycott Alex. Get over it!
  • D-9
    In peloquin we trust. In the Judge on this case.....NO!

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