November 17, 2008

Written by Matt Goldberg

While we’ve reported on the legal tussle between Warner Bros. and Fox over the release of “Watchmen”, it’s still been a bit hazy. Will the case prevent the film from hitting its promised March 6th, 2009 release date? Who stands to profit? Who’s in the wrong, if anyone? This article by John Horn over at the LA Times does a great job of breaking it all down. The article also provides a fascinating chronology of the project’s development over the past twenty-two years.

As I interpret the facts of the case as presented by Horn, while Fox does have the contracts on its side, it also has the problem of inaction. Right now, they’re claiming that the original contract allows them to produce, and at the very least, distribute “Watchmen”. The problem is that they’re a little late to the party and their move reeks of opportunism. “Watchmen” has passed from Fox to Universal to Paramount and finally to Warner Bros. Fox says that they were to be informed of any passing of the property and the opportunity to come back on board if a more appealing crew came into play. The problem with that argument is that you have to assume no one at Fox picked up a copy of Variety or The Hollywood Reporter since 2001.

Paramount got into a similar scuffle with Warner Bros but they did the opposite of what Fox is doing. Once Zack Snyder was brought into, Paramount got into a skirmish with WB and the studios came to an agreement that Paramount would own 25% of the film and distribute it overseas. While Fox claims that they contacted Warners before filming began, nothing came of those deals.

Perhaps both studios are in the wrong on this: Fox, an ailing studio desperate for a hit, tries to come in at the last minute and grab a piece of someone else’s work; Warner Bros. may also be at fault for legal negligence and not providing due diligence into looking into the project’s legal history and in their eagerness to make the film, turned a blind eye to potential legal landmines.

Meanwhile, while these two studios play chicken over who’s going to make money off this flick, fans hold their breath and hope they won’t have to wait any longer than March 6th to see their beloved story come to the big screen after a twenty-two year journey.

Here’s the full story.

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