Watchmen Legal Battle: Fox vs. Warner Bros. Part II

 Comics2Film reports:

On the heels of Nikki Finke’s scoop that the 20th Century Fox vs Warner BrosWatchmen‘ battle would continue, comes a report from Variety that reveals the situation for the film may be more dire than what we reported yesterday.

To recap: on Friday U.S. District Court Judge Gary Allen Feess found that Fox’s assertion (that it holds some claim on the film rights of the graphic novel) is valid and refused to throw the claim out of court. This paves the way for Fox to seek an injunction against Warner Bros preventing the release of the film, which is planned for March 2009.

We speculated that Fox was likely seeking a settlement and the ruling and subsequent court proceedings would give them leverage over Warner Bros, who is beyond the point of no return with the film.

However, Variety’s report says that Fox may not be willing to settle and may aggressively persue that injunction.

Fox issued a statement that reads:

Warner Bros.’ production and anticipated release of ‘The Watchmen’ motion picture violates 20th Century Fox’s long-standing motion picture rights in ‘The Watchmen’ [sic] property.

We will be asking the court to enforce Fox’s copyright interests in ‘The Watchmen’ [sic] and enjoin the release of the Warner Bros. film and any related ‘Watchmen’ media that violate our copyright interests in that property.

In addition, Variety also cites an unnamed source “close to the litigation” who claims that Fox, who invested a reported $1 million in the project, will not be settling the case.

“When you have copyright infringement, there are some damages you never recover,” said the source.

It’s hard to believe that the ‘Watchmen’ movie and its spin-off movies (the ‘Black Freighter’ animated film and the ‘Under The Hood’ faux documentary, not to mention the currently released “motion comic”) will be put on mothballs. Today that seems like a possible outcome.

See Variety’s article here.

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Watchmen Legal Battle: Fox vs. Warner Bros.

The Hollywood Reporter reports:

Warner Bros. is scheduled to release Zack Snyder‘s big-screen adaptation of the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons comics series on March 6, but a federal judge in Los Angeles complicated that plan Wednesday when he refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by 20th Century Fox against Warners over rights to the property.

Judge Gary Allen Fees ruled that Fox has established enough evidence to support its claims that it holds the distribution rights to the film version of the 1980s graphic novel about damaged superheroes.

Asserting what it calls its “long-standing motion picture rights” to “Watchmen,” Fox said Monday that it will ask the court to “enjoin the release of the Warner Brothers film and any related ‘Watchmen’ media that violate our copyright interests in that property.”

Warners has high hopes for “Watchmen,” a potential franchise film that has a reported $120 million budget. The studio does not want to mess with success — it released Snyder’s previous big-screen effort, “300,” in March 2006, and that action movie went on to gross more than $450 million worldwide.

Warners counters that Fox has no rights to the project.

“The court’s ruling simply means that the parties will engage in discovery and proceed with the litigation,” it said. “The judge did not opine at all on the merits, other than to conclude that Fox satisfied the pleading requirements.”

Fox has sued Warners for copyright infringement and interference with its contract rights under a 1991 agreement between Fox and Largo Entertainment producer Larry Gordon.

Under that deal, Fox “quit claimed” its rights in “Watchmen” to Largo, with the understanding that if the production company proceeded with a big-screen version of the comic, then the movie would be distributed by Fox.

In 1994, Gordon negotiated with Fox “a turnaround notice” that established a buyout formula for the studio if he elected to acquire Fox’s rights. But according to Fox, Gordon failed to follow the 1994 agreement.

In 2006, Warners negotiated a quit-claim contract with Gordon, under which it claims to have acquired the rights to “Watchmen.”

Fox contends that it has retained its rights to the project because Gordon failed to buy out the studio’s rights. It further claims that Warners turned a blind eye to Fox’s rights. Warners, however, says under the 1994 agreement, Fox gave away all of its rights, including those to distribute.

Judge Fees disagreed, finding that Warners’ motion to dismiss ignored several facts, including that the turnaround notice separately dealt with “Watchmen” and that there is nothing in the court record that shows Gordon has an interest in the project.

 

Thanks to ComicBookMovie.com for this article.

My Top 40 Animated Feature Films

In honor of Wall-E, which I saw yesterday and LOVED, here’s my list of 40 favorite animated films:

1.    Alice in Wonderland*                            1951
2.    Bambi*                                          1942
3.    Fantasia*                                       1940
4.    Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs*                1937
5.    Finding Nemo**                                  2003
6.    The Little Mermaid*                             1989
7.    Cinderella*                                     1950
8.    Toy Story**                                     1995
9.    My Neighbor Totoro†                             1988
10.   WALL·E**                                        2008
11.   The Lion King*                                  1994
12.   Cars**                                          2006
13.   Dumbo*                                          1941
14.   The Nightmare Before Christmas*                 1993
15.   Ratatouille**                                   2007
16.   Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind†             1984
17.   Happy Feet◊                                     2006
18.   Princess Mononoke†                              1997
19.   Monsters Inc.**                                 2001
20.   Shrek‡                                          2001
21.   Shrek 2‡                                        2004
22.   Aladdin*                                        1992
23.   The Incredibles**                               2004
24.   Shrek the Third‡                                2007
25.   Beauty and the Beast*                           1991
26.   The Simpsons Movie¨                             2007
27.   The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh*         1977
28.   A Scanner Darkly§                               2006
29.   Sleeping Beauty*                                1959
30.   Over the Hedge‡                                 2006
31.   Robin Hood*                                     1973
32.   A Bug’s Life**                                  1998
33.   Lilo & Stitch*                                  2002
34.   Kung Fu Panda‡                                  2008
35.   Akiraª                                          1998
36.   Ice Age¨                                        2002
37.   Ice Age: The Meltdown¨                          2006
38.   Open Season©                                    2006
39.   Shark Tale‡                                     2004
40.   Antz‡                                           1998
*Disney (including Touchstone Pictures)
** Disney/Pixar
† Studio Ghibli (Miyazaki)
‡ Dreamworks
◊ Village Roadshow/Warner Bros.
¨ Fox (including Blue Sky Studios)
§ Warner Bros.
ª The Akira Committee
© Sony
Last revised and updated July 2, 2008

The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #9 Bryan Singer

Bryan SingerPrior to signing on to direct X-Men, Bryan Singer considered comics to be “low level literature.”  He was not a fan of comics and was unfamiliar with the X-Men characters. Singer’s friend, Tom DeSanto, a huge comic book enthusiast, eventually persuaded Singer to watch every episode of the X-Men animated series and read several comics.  Singer was hooked. His new found enthusiasm for comics coupled with The Usual Suspects tucked away in his back pocket made him a prime choice for 20th Century Fox and producers #16 Lauren Shuler Donner, Avi Arad, and Stan Lee.  The result was the groundbreaking X-Men, which he directed and for which he co-wrote the story, followed by 2003’s smash hit X2, which he directed and for which he wrote the story and served as executive producer.  In 2004, amidst difficulties finalizing a deal for Singer to direct X-Men 3, he was hired by Warner Brothers to direct, produce, and co-write the story for a new Superman film, Superman Returns, released in 2006. Again, Singer was unfamiliar with the comics, but he identified with the character and loved Richard Donner’s 1978 film Superman.  His next comic book film will be Superman: Man of Steel, which he will produce and for which he will write the story.  News suggests that Singer will be directing as well, but there has been some evidence to the contrary.  The sequel is set to be released in June of 2009.

Influence Meter: ++++++

The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #14 Mark Steven Johnson

Mark Steven JohnsonSome may call him a pioneer of dark and gritty comic book films. Others might say he’s the worst friend Marvel Studios could have. Either way, Mark Steven Johnson has certainly made his mark on Hollywood.  In 2003 he directed and co-wrote the screenplay for Daredevil, based on the eponymous Marvel character.  Interestingly, Johnson appeared in Kevin Smith’s 2001 comedy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back pretending to direct a Daredevil movie.  A few years later, he was actually hired by Twentieth Century Fox to direct Daredevil. Smith wrote several issues of Daredevil comics for Marvel in 1999 and had a cameo role in Johnson’s Daredevil. Ben Affleck, who starred in Daredevil, co-starred in Jay and Silent Bob.  These fateful coincidences notwithstanding, the film opened to mixed reviews.  In 2005, Johnson was the executive producer for the spinoff film Elektra (based on the Marvel character created by #7 Frank Miller), for which he also wrote an early draft script.  Reviews for this film were awful, and Rotten Tomatoes ranked it the second worst reviewed comic book movie of all time.  Did Johnson find redemption in 2007’s Ghost Rider (produced by #22 Michael De Luca with executive producer #5 David S. Goyer), which he directed and for which he wrote the screen story and screenplay?  It depends on who you ask.  It didn’t completely flop at the box office, and it got slightly better critical reviews than Elektra, but that’s not saying much. Despite these misfires, Johnson is set to direct a possible Daredevil II and co-write the screenplay for a film based on Marvel’s Luke Cage, but release dates have not yet been issued for these films. Johnson is currently involved as executive producer and writer for a television adaptation of Garth EnnisPreacher for HBO.

Influence Meter: ++++

The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #17 Lawrence Gordon

Lawrence GordonSelznick Award winning producer Lawrence Gordon became known for making films such as 48 Hrs., Predator, Field of Dreams, and Die Hard.  He has been President and CEO of Twentieth Century Fox, Chairman and CEO of Largo Entertainment, and is the founder of Lawrence Gordon Productions. His first foray into the comic book movie world came with his production of Disney’s 1991 film The Rocketeer, based on the Pacific Comics and Comico Comics publications of the same name.  Despite the fact that The Rocketeer was not an enormously popular title in the comic book world, the film garnered a fair amount of success, both critically and at the box office.  In 1994, Largo Entertainment produced Timecop (with executive producer #6 Mike Richardson), starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, although Gordon himself was not credited as a producer.  Gordon did serve as an executive producer (again with Richardson) for the 1997 spinoff television series “Timecop.”  His second credited feature length film was the 1999 comedy Mystery Men, which Gordon again produced with Richardson, based on Dark Horse’s semi-underground title Flaming Carrot Comics. Gordon subsequently produced the successful Hellboy in 2004, and is credited as a producer for the up-coming Hellboy II: The Golden Army, (both made with the multifaceted talents of Mike Richardson, #13 Mike Mignola, and #10 Guillermo del Toro) set to be released July 11, 2008. He is also set to produce the eagerly anticipated Watchmen, based on Alan Moore’s seminal work, to be released on March 6, 2009.  Hollywood.com reports that Gordon has been announced as a producer, with Mike Richardson, for an upcoming film adaptation of Paul Chadwick’s Concrete and of the Dark Horse publication Black Cross. Release dates have yet to be confirmed.

Influence Meter: ++++