This morning the Hollywood Reporter is spreading the news about Fox Studio’s lawsuit against Warner Brothers which could derail the currently-shooting production.
On Friday, the studio sued Warners, claiming it holds the exclusive copyrights and contract rights to “Watchmen.” Fox seeks to enjoin Warners from going forward with the project, saying in the lawsuit that it seeks to “restrain (Warner Bros. Pictures) from taking actions that violate Fox’s copyrights and which stand to forever impair Fox’s rights to control the distribution and development of this unique work.”
Fox claims that between 1986 and 1990, it acquired all movie rights to the 12-issue DC Comics series and screenplays by Charles McKeown and Sam Hamm. In 1991, Fox assigned some rights via a quitclaim to Largo International with the understanding that the studio held exclusive rights to distribute the first motion picture based on “Watchmen,” according to the lawsuit.
When Largo dismantled, the rights were transferred to producer Lawrence Gordon. Under a “turnaround agreement” between Fox and Gordon, the producer agreed to pay a buy-out price to Fox if he entered into any agreement with another studio or third party to develop or produce “Watchmen,” among other things.
The project apparently bounced around to Universal and Paramount before returning to Warners. Now, Fox claims that neither Gordon nor Warners has paid the buy-out price or advised the studio of any other conditions required under the agreement, including procedures necessary to acquire the rights to “Watchmen” from Fox.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
What does this mean for the movie? Given that production is near its end, chances are Fox doesn’t want to actually go ahead and make a “Watchmen” movie at this point. The bottom line now will be some kind of cash settlement — if Warner Brothers can’t win outright or get the case dismissed on some grounds, they’ll probably try to settle the case through a lump sum payment to Fox. The best case scenario for Fox is to be given a percentage of the film’s proceeds, which is like getting paid for doing nothing, a big win regardless of whether it’s a smash hit or an flop. That kind of development would make the film less profitable for Warners.
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