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.

Advertisements

The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #6 Mike Richardson

Mike Richardson     So you saw a sci-fi or fantasy movie, and it featured some off-the-wall characters, and maybe you thought it was entertaining, and it got some hype, but you didn’t realize until later that it was a comic book movie.  There’s a good chance that it was produced by Mike Richardson, the president of the world’s third largest comic book publisher, Dark Horse Comics. Since 1986, Dark Horse has been a beacon for restless artists and writers fleeing the ranks of Marvel and DC wishing to make a name for themselves with their own “creator owned” comics.
     In 1994, Richardson served as executive producer of two films made through Dark Horse subsidiary Dark Horse Entertainment.  One was The Mask (with co-executive producer #22 Michael De Luca), based on Richardson’s own comic of the same name, created in the late 1980’s/ early ‘90s.   The film earned several awards and nominations and was instrumental in propelling Jim Carrey’s comedic career forward. The Mask was followed by the three season long “The Mask” animated television series, which ran from 1995 to 1997, and by the Razzie Award winning Son of the Mask in 2005 (also executive produced by Richardson). The other film for which Richardson was an executive producer in 1994 was Timecop, made with producer #11 Sam Raimi and #17 Lawrence Gordon‘s production company Largo Entertainment. It was again based on Richardson’s eponymous comic, published by Dark Horse. This film was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film and was particularly lauded for Jean Claude Van-Damme’s surprisingly competent dramatic performance in the starring role.  The film was followed up by the 1997 television series “Timecop” (which he co-executive produced with Gordon) and the 2003 direct-to-video sequel Timecop: The Berlin Decision.  In the latter half of the 1990s he produced two films; 1996’s Barb Wire, another Razzie Award nominee starring Pamela Anderson as the eponymous character published by the Dark Horse imprint Comics Greatest World, and the 1999 comedy Mystery Men (with producer Lawrence Gordon), loosely based on characters appearing in Bob Burden’s Flaming Carrot Comics, published by Dark Horse in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Richardson was also the executive producer of the 1999 movie Virus (producer #21 Gale Anne Hurd‘s first comic book film) based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name. Once again, this film was almost universally panned.
     By the end of the ‘90s, Mike Richardson was making movies, but was in a slump with the critics. Not to be dissuaded, Richardson regrouped, and 5 years later he came back with his production of Dark Horse’s flagship property, Hellboy.  With the all-star team of producer Lawrence Gordon, producer/designer/writer/creator #13 Mike Mignola, and visionary director #10 Guillermo del Toro, Richardson had made a box office and critical success that reinvigorated his company and the independent comic book industry all at once. Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms won him a 2007 Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program, followed by Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron a year later. He was executive producer of both and again worked with the invaluable talents of Del Toro and Mignola.  He is currently working on his production of Hellboy II: The Golden Army, starring Ron Perlman and Selma Blair.  He has brought Gordon, Mignola, and Del Toro back together again for the sequel which is set for release on July 11, 2008.  Other Mike Richardson projects include 2004’s AVP: Alien vs. Predator, based in part on the Dark Horse comic series, and 2007’s 30 Days of Night, produced by Sam Raimi and based on the limited series published by IDW. Richardson served as executive producer on both films.
     Future projects for Mike Richardson include feature length productions of Dark Horse comic series R.I.P.D., Damn Nation, Criminal Macabre (based on Dark Horse/IDW character Cal McDonald), Concrete, and Black Cross.  He is slated to work as producer on all of these films.  Release dates have yet to be announced.

Influence Meter: ++++++++

The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #11 Sam Raimi

Sam RaimiPrior to his infamous run on the Spider-Man franchise, Sam Raimi was best known as the man behind the Bruce Campbell classics The Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, and their progeny.  Raimi has always been a fan of comic books and pulp fiction protagonists, particularly The Shadow.  After trying and failing to secure the rights to a feature film production of The Shadow, Raimi decided to make his own superhero film in the same vein, creating 1990’s Darkman.  In 1994 he produced Dark Horse’s Timecop with executive producer #6 Mike Richardson and #17 Lawrence Gordon‘s company Largo Entertainment. By 2000, Sony had hired him to direct Spider-Man.  His passion for the character earned him the job, and the film was finally released in 2002 after two years of filming delays, a tragic death during filming, and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The film was a huge success, and in 2004 Spider-Man 2 followed with an even bigger and better box office and critical reception. In 2007, Sony released Spider-Man 3, this time with Raimi writing the story and screenplay as well as directing.  The film was not nearly as successful as the two previous films in the series, but it was good enough to persuade Sony to have Raimi at the helm of Spider-Man 4, due to be released in 2010 or 2011. In 2007, Raimi also produced an adaptation of the horror comic 30 Days of Night, published by IDW, working again with executive producer Mike Richardson. Raimi is working on producing a film adaptation of Korean graphic novelist Min-Woo Hyung’s Priest with #25 Michael De Luca, currently scheduled for release in 2009, and on his beloved The Shadow, to which he finally acquired the filming rights.

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: ++++