Warner Bros' Watchmen in Serious Legal Trouble!
Back in February we posted an article titled Fox Suing Warner Brothers Over Watchmen Movie that outlined a legal case that 20th Century Fox was fighting against Warner Brothers for the rights to the Watchmen movie. At the time it didn't create too much buzz because back in February, I was one of the only ones who had visited the set and knew what we'd be seeing in that amazing teaser trailer later on. However, Nikki Finke of Deadline Hollywood has an update today and it's not good, not good at all. "A federal judge has denied a Warner Bros motion to dismiss 20th Century Fox's legal battle over the rights to develop, produce and distribute a film based on the graphic novel Watchmen." Apparently WB is in some serious legal trouble if this doesn't get straighted out, but details are a bit hazy at the moment.
Finke says that a 20th Century Fox rep told her that U.S. District Court Judge Gary Allen Feess refused to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Fox. The legal details of this whole case are a bit complicated, so we'll do our best to simplify them. Fox claims that between 1986 and 1990, they acquired all movie rights to the 12-issue DC Comics series and screenplays by Charles McKeown and Sam Hamm. However, in 1991, they sold some rights to Largo International with the understanding that they still held exclusive rights to distribute the first movie. Largo shut down sometime around 1994 and the rights were thus transfered to producer Lawrence Gordon. Fox claims that under a separate agreement between Fox and Gordon, he would pay a "buy-out price" to Fox if he was contracted by another studio to develop Watchmen. And now the movie is being made and they claim they never got their buy-out amount and should be involved.
And here's what the judge had to say on the situation. "In essence, the Judge appears to conclude that Fox retained distribution rights in Watchmen through the 1991 Largo quit claim, and he concludes that, under the 1994 turnaround, producer Larry Gordon acquired an option to acquire Fox's remaining interest in Watchmen that was never exercised, thereby leaving Fox with its rights under the 1994 agreement." Apparently the court is still contemplating Fox's motion for an injunction, which means that if they get it, Warner Bros will essentially be forced to give up all rights to Fox and they'll in turn to distribute the movie. The Fox rep also adds that "while the Judge's opinion is preliminary and his views could change in the course of the litigation, his current take on the facts is consistent with our position."
Are you fucking kidding me? If this happens and Fox does end up with the rights, I will be the first to boycott the movie. I love Zack Snyder, but Fox needs to know when to step back and stop whining. They had over 20 years to make the Watchmen movie and didn't and I'm sorry that the smarter guys ended up figuring out how to make it successfully. Everything Warner Brothers has done for this movie so far has been wonderful and they deserve to market and distribute the movie, hands down. I'm trying not to get too enraged by this news, because we're waiting for more developments and details, but I just can't help it. I expect Warner Brothers to pay some high price for Fox to step down, but we'll never hear about that publicly and I hope we don't feel the effects of it (in a marketing budget that gets cut, etc). I truly wish Warner Bros' legal department the best of luck. Stay tuned for more updates!