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.

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The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #7 Frank Miller

Frank Miller     Frank Miller revolutionized the comic book superhero mainstream in the 1980s and ’90s with his injection of Neo-noir and anti-heroic elements into the stories he drew, wrote, and created. His works have had such an impact on popular culture that filmmakers seem compelled to produce them for the screen. In 1981 he created the character Elektra for Marvel, on which Jennifer Garner’s portrayal in the 2003 film Daredevil and in 2005’s Elektra were based. Both films were created with the involvement of #14 Mark Steven Johnson; the latter being co-written by #12 Zak PennIn 1983, Miller created the limited series Ronin for DC Comics.  A film adaptation is in the works involving 300 producer Gianni Nunnari but no release date has been announced.  In 1986, DC released Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, a critically acclaimed and highly influential work that took the campy Batman of the 1960s television show and redefined him into the darker, grittier hero now well known to audiences. This, along with Alan Moore’s 1986 work Batman: The Killing Joke, were major influences on Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman. In 1987, Miller wrote the story arc for four issues of Batman titled Batman: Year One.  This story became the basis of the first of many scripts and story ideas that eventually resulted in #18 Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, co-created with #5 David S. Goyer.  
     After leaving Marvel and DC, Miller went on to create his own independent work.  In 1990 he created the three issue series Hard Boiled, published by Dark Horse, which is in the works to be adapted into a film written by Miller and produced by star Nicolas Cage. No release date has officially been issued. In 1991, Miller wrote and drew his first Sin City story, published under the Dark Horse title Dark Horse Presents. Throughout the decade, Sin City “yarns” became increasingly popular and critically well received, reinvigorating the noir and crime comics genre and giving rise to the 2005 film Sin City. Miller was credited as a co-director on this film with Robert Rodriguez, marking an end to his disdain for Hollywood comic book adaptations. Sin City 2 and Sin City 3 are also planned, with Miller directing both and acting as the producer and writer of the screenplay for Sin City 2. In 1996, Miller created Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot for Dark Horse, which led to an animated television series of the same name airing from 1999 to 2001. In 1998, Miller and long time collaborator Lynn Varley created the acclaimed graphic novel 300, on which the eponymous 2007 film was based, which Miller executive produced. His latest project, a film adaptation of Will Eisner’s golden age comic The Spirit, is scheduled for release on December 25, 2008, starring Gabriel Macht and Samuel L. Jackson, with #8 Benjamin Melniker and #5 Michael Uslan as executive producers, and Frank Miller directing.

Influence Meter: ++++++++

The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #13 Mike Mignola

Mike MignolaWhile Professor Bruttenholm may be Hellboy’s father on screen, the real father of Hellboy and the Hellboy franchise is none other than Mike Mignola.  While illustrating for Marvel and DC Comics during the 1980’s and early ‘90s, Mignola ventured into film by illustrating the storyboards for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 version of Dracula.  The same year he created a new character design for Warner Bro’s Batman animated TV series (with #8 Benjamin Melniker and #5 Michael E. Uslan as executive producers).  In 1994 Dark Horse was the first company to publish Mignola’s original concepts in the 1994 Hellboy: Seed of Destruction. Since that time, his work on Hellboy has grown exponentially, leading to a popular spinoff comic known as BPRD (also published by Dark Horse) and numerous screen projects.  His artistry has been described as “German expressionism meets Jack Kirby” by esteemed comics creator Alan Moore.  In 2002 Mignola worked as a concept artist on #10 Guillermo Del Toro’s Blade II (with executive producer #22 Michael De Luca and writer/executive producer #5 David S. Goyer). In 2004 he saw his red-handed creation reach the big screen with Hellboy, for which he was the associate producer and design consultant along with director Del Toro, producer #6 Mike Richardson, and producer #17 Lawrence Gordon. He has served as consulting producer and writer for the animated features Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms, Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron, and Hellboy Animated: Iron Shoes, the first two of which were executive produced by Richardson, and all of which were released in 2006/2007.  In 2006, Mignola oversaw the art direction for the television adaptation of his comic The Amazing Screw-On Head, featuring the voices of Paul Giamatti and David Hyde Pierce. Mignola is currently credited as a consultant and co-story writer for the up-coming Hellboy: The Science of Evil video game, writer and consulting producer for 2008’s Hellboy Animated: The Phantom Claw, and co-story writer and co-producer (again with Gordon, Del Toro, and Richardson) of the highly anticipated Hellboy II: The Golden Army, to be released on July 11, 2008.  Variety reports that another future project is in the works for Mignola, specifically a film adaptation of his 2007 graphic novel Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, to be directed by David S. Goyer.

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: ++++