Superman movie franchise reportedly on hold until legal dramas end

Despite speculation that Warner Bros. might pick up the pace on another Superman film to meet a judge's 2011 deadline, a sequel reportedly has been put on hold until the property emerges from "legal limbo."

Anne Thompson reports that the studio is waiting to resolve its dispute with the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, who in 2008 reclaimed part of the copyright to the superhero, and the estate of Joe Shuster, which in 2013 will become eligible for its share.

Thompson, formerly of Variety, notes that executives at Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures "are eager to start development on a sequel" to Bryan Singer's 2006 Superman Returns, which grossed $391 million worldwide but cost a whopping $232 million to produce.

"They want to start over from scratch," Thompson writes. "While Kick-Ass writer Mark Millar did pitch himself (to scant interest), WB in-house faves the Wachowski brothers and their protege James McTeigue were never approached. (It’s hard to imagine such hard-R types taking on what one blogger described as the 'Big Blue Boy Scout.')"

Many previously presumed the studio had one eye on a clock set in July by U.S. District Judge Stephen G. Larson when he ruled against the Siegel family's claim that Warner Bros. had received a "sweetheart deal" from subsidiary DC Comics when it licensed the Superman characters for Smallville and Superman Returns.

The judge apparently was swayed, however, by the Siegels' argument about the absence of a rights-reversion clause in the DC-Warner Bros. deal -- a standard feature in such contracts -- and said the family could bring action if the studio didn't begin filming a Superman sequel by 2011.

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