Robot 6

Studios will let judge determine Watchmen‘s release



A federal judge will decide on Jan. 20 whether Warner Bros. will be allowed to release Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen.

In court papers filed on Monday, attorneys for Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox agreed to allow U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess to decide if Fox can block distribution of the highly anticipated movie.

Attorneys for Warner Bros., citing the proximity of the planned March 6 release, have asked that the hearing be moved to Jan. 12.

Feess is the judge who on Dec. 24 ruled that Fox owns a copyright interest in Watchmen because of a tangled development history that dates back to the late 1980s, when the studio acquired the rights to the Alan Moore-Dave Gibbons  DC Comics miniseries for producer Lawrence Gordon. The movie passed from studio to studio over the next two decades before finally settling at Warner Bros.

However, Feess determined, Gordon never obtained the necessary rights from Fox. “Fox owns a copyright interest consisting of, at the very least, the right to distribute the Watchmen motion picture,” the judge wrote in his December order.

Feess had suggested the studios work toward a settlement or an appeal.

Rodney Perkins and Jeff Trexler have more analysis, plus links to the legal documents.



Seriously, I hope it doesn’t get delay past March. I have been waiting years for this moment. It was one of the first comics I read 15 years ago. While a delay would be frustrating, I would live–if it didn’t come out at all, after what we’ve already seen of the movie, well, there might be riots outside the Fox studios! Well, maybe not, but cmon!

To be honest I would be very angry at Fox if they blocked the release of watchmen. It would be enough that I would boycott Fox all together and I would get others to do that. Fox is only seeing dollars, while the fans are just wanting to see the movie.

I’m not really a boycott type of guy, but this would do it for me. Now that all the Star Wars movies are released I’ve got no alliegance to them or anything.

The time to boycott Fox would be now, to encourage them to resolve the case quickly and allow the film to keep it’s scheduled release date.

Boycotts Are Pointless

January 7, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Boycotts of films rarely work. Witness the pointlessness that was the supposed boycott of Casino Royale as proof of that. Besides, the bigger issue is this: If Fox DOES own the rights, then it’s WB that is the villain here, not Fox, as WB made a film without first securing the rights it required to distribute it. Blaming Fox doesn’t make a lot of sense–they’re just protecting what’s theirs. I’d do the same.

I hope that Fox gets the ability to finally release, or at least start clearing what they need to clear, Batman. I’m probably in the minority, but I want Batman DVDs more than I’m worried about Watchmen being put off for a few months.

But if Fox has the rights on the Watchmen movie adaptation, why its attorneys didn’t moved at the first shot?

It seems that’s the common “not politicaly correct” way of some companies arround the world, the more in the USA, to go to the tribunal years after one of their “rights” had been used by an another company and did profits on it/them and they want the money…

It sounds crazy…

I would be very surprised if Warner was caught by surprise by Fox’s claim. They most likely knew about this issue, and went ahead with the movie, leaving it up to Fox to take action or not. It was probably the least expensive and risky option for Warner.

Look at it this way – from a studio exec’s point of view Watchmen is kind of a risky undertaking. It needs a huge budget with a very dense story and a weird sort of premise – many veteran filmmakers said that it couldn’t be done. If you gave that movie to Brett Ratner it would be a fiasco. Suddenly 300 is a hit, and it looks like Zack Snyder might be able to pull it off – what do you do now? Do you tell Zack to wait for a couple of years why you sort out all the legal details? That’s a bad idea for all kinds of reasons. Why waste the time and money straightening out the legal details while the moment to make the film slips by?

So they went ahead and made the movie – once it’s successfully shot and in the can, they are in a stronger bargaining position. Fox can maybe come on board as a distribution partner. That’s a win-win.

I have no inside information, I’m just making strategic guesses about how it went down. Warner has good lawyers, so there’s no way they got blindsided by this. It’s all just ‘doing business’.

Having said that, I’ll be miffed if the release date gets bumped.

Sure, boycott’s don’t usually work, but in an economy like we have today, you gotta wonder if maybe it would be taken more seriously than before. That said, it doesn’t sound like this event itself really needs the actions of raving comic fans to bring things to a close.

Fans are a blight on any industry.

I pretty much already boycott anything from Fox.

If Warner Bros. can’t make a profit from this movie, either because of the legal costs or because Fox wins the right to distribute it in the US (Paramount already has the distribution rights outside the US), then there is no reason for Warner to let the movie be shown. At that point, if I were the head of Warner, I’d exercise a pocket veto on its release.

[…] Early last week the two sides agreed to allow Feess to decide in a planned Jan. 20 hearing whether Fox could block the release of the $130-million movie. […]

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