Who’ll be watching the Watchmen federal case? (updated time infinity)

fox-vs-wb-who-will-winJanuary 20 is going to be a very exciting day, and not just because the United States will be swearing in it’s first non-white President — it’s also the day that both 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. will learn exactly what the ruling and the potential damages are that stem from the tangled mess which became the transfer of the rights to the Watchmen movie from the former to the latter.

This one’s for all the marbles and the still unchanged March 6 opening date, folks, according to the Variety article that was posted on Wednesday:

Both sides stipulated that [U.S. District Court Judge Gary Allen Feess] would determine at [the] hearing whether Fox is entitled to a permanent injunction. The studios also agreed that neither would oppose any request to expedite an appeal.

The entire blogosphere has been a-blaze with the news, but for the first time—and courtesy of former AICN staff writer Drew McWeeny—members of the production team are speaking up.

In an exclusive that was posted today, McWeeny let producer Lloyd Levin have his new website/blog/AICN-competition called HitFix to stand upon for his soapbox, and boy did Levin let it fly:

From my point of view, the flashpoint of this dispute, came in late spring of 2005. Both Fox and Warner Brothers were offered the chance to make Watchmen. They were submitted the same package, at the same time. It included a cover letter describing the project and its history, budget information, a screenplay, the graphic novel, and it made mention that a top director was involved.

And it’s at this point, where the response from both parties could not have been more radically different.

The response we got from Fox was a flat “pass.” That’s it. An internal Fox email documents that executives there felt the script was one of the most unintelligible pieces of shit they had read in years. Conversely, Warner Brothers called us after having read the script and said they were interested in the movie—yes, they were unsure of the screenplay, and had many questions, but wanted to set a meeting to discuss the project, which they promptly did. Did anyone at Fox ask to meet on the movie? No. Did anyone at Fox express any interest in the movie? No. Express even the slightest interest in the movie? Or the graphic novel? No.

[Note that Alex Tse finished the script Zack Snyder shot in late 2006 or thereabouts, so the draft Fox and WB saw were not what you’ll see on screen this year. — gm]

I know that if Levin’s recounting of the events of 2005 are correct—and where’s the Smoking Gun with that internal email already, hmm?—then ethically, Warner Bros. completely deserves to retain and keep every last fucking red cent of profit the movie makes both here and abroad.

However, contracts are a very tricky thing and the American justice system should not reward such lazy work by the Warner Bros. lawyers when they first started negotiating for those rights back in 2005 either.

UPDATE: Hollywood Reporter has comments from Larry Gordon, who is the maligned “other” producer on whom a lot of scorn is being placed. Apparently, on Wednesday, Gordon sent a letter to Judge Feess, who refused to enter it into evidence or testimony, “issuing a terse one-paragraph response later Wednesday that called it an ‘improper communication’ in violation of court rules.”

From HR:

Gordon claims in his letter that during those negotiations, Fox sent his lawyer, Tom Hunter at the firm Bloom Dekom, a chain of title that did not include the 1991 quitclaim.

“It is Mr. Gordon’s position that the execution of the 1994 turnaround agreement was the result of either a mutual mistake by both parties or a unilateral mistake made by his counsel, on which Mr. Gordon relied,” the letter says.

In related news, Coming Soon alerts us to the fact that the in-Watchmen-universe newspaper The New Frontiersman has a website up (which is pretty cutting edge for 1985, let me tell you), and they also inform us that the Tales from the Black Freighter animated short will be rated R for “violent and grisly images.” Tales from the Black Freighter is due out on DVD five days after the film’s release, as well as set to be cut into an “ultimate” edition of the film when that makes its way to DVD however many months later.

UPDATE (1/9/09): Variety has learned that Fox and Warner Brothers are actually trying to play nice; attorneys for the two studios have agreed to delay a federal court hearing until Monday in order to continue settlement talks that they’ve apparently been holding. Any settlement would almost undoubtedly leave the March 6 release date intact and give Fox a piece of the pie (in addition to or in lieu of reimbursement for its own development costs from when they held the rights to it — prior to the aforementioned 1994 turnaround agreement).

Nothing gets things moving like having a fire under your asses (a.k.a. the imminent release date), huh, boys?

UPDATE (1/12/09): THR is reporting that they’re close to a settlement now! Yawn. Tell us when something actually happens, please.

Related Posts: 20th Century Fox owns Watchmen distribution rights, says judge; Trailer Watch: New full Watchmen trailer; Trailer Watch: Scream Awards Watchmen footage; Update on Tales of the Black Freighter

Posted on January 9, 2009 at 06:35 by Trisha Lynn · Permalink
In: News

4 Responses

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  1. Written by Graehaus
    on 2009-01-09 at 07:33

    I’d say WB should have it, as it is their property, as in DC, tho Alan should of got something more then the pain he has gone through.

  2. Written by dave
    on 2009-01-10 at 00:17

    it’s hilarous how fox didn’t want a peice of it until after they got a look at what it became, and realized just how much money it could make.

  3. Written by Lincoln
    on 2009-01-12 at 00:57

    I’m pretty sure Alan doesn’t want any money ever. He’s too busy worshiping a snake god.

    In any case, I’m a tad confused as to how Fox owns any rights to this still. Did they just buy the option a long time ago, and then decided the script sucked or something? I find myself totally lost.

  4. Written by Trisha Lynn
    on 2009-01-12 at 06:32

    @Lincoln: It all has to do with a quitclaim document that wasn’t executed correctly. Check out the link at the bottom of the first MMO article about it, here.

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