The litigious tide is turning in 20th Century Fox Film Corporation’s favor. That’s what the Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. gets for not doing their due diligence on Watchmen. How could they make such a large mistake? Judge Gary A. Feess concluded on December 24, 2008 that Fox “should prevail on crucial issues” in their lawsuit over the film (and any future films) based on the Watchmen 12-issue comic book series. If I was in charge of this at 20th Century Fox I would ask for half: Half the theatrical take, half the DVD sales and half of the merchandising (including videogame) profits. They almost have Warner Bros. over a barrel now, think Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction or Ace Ventura thrusting with his pelvis: “Can you feel that huh?” According to the New York Times, “Feess says that ‘Fox owns a copyright interest consisting of, at the very least, the right to distribute the Watchmen motion picture’ and that ‘The parties may wish to turn their efforts from preparing for trial to negotiating a resolution of this dispute or positioning the case for review.’
I believe this means that Warner Bros no longer or will no longer have the right to distribute Watchmen and that those rights will migrate over to 20th Century Fox if this case moves forward. If Fox gains distribution rights and doesn’t get what they want financially, they can always delay the release of the film. That would be unfortunate for Warner Bros as Watchmen is their tent pole for March (possibly for the year) and was to be part of their bottom line for this fiscal year. It is all good for Fox since they only put up a million dollars to develop the Watchmen property in the late 80’s. For them it is win, win either way. “Warners already are sharing the portion of the film it didn’t sell to Paramount with financing partner Legendary Pictures, the studio doesn’t have that much to divvy up.” Uh oh. I bet Warner Bros’ legal department got reamed over this debacle by studio head Alan Horn. The original case was originally filed in February 2008 and was finally brought before court in August 2008. Keep that interim of time between the two months in mind when the idea of appealing the judge’s decision is broached. “If WB goes on the appeal road, then Watchmen may not come out until 2011 considering the glacial speed which the court system move.”
Yesterday, one of 20th Century Fox’s legal counselors told the Associated Press that “the studio will continue to seek an order delaying the release of ‘Watchmen.'” Read Battlefield Earth folks because this is a clear cut example of leverage. When questioned, an attorney for Warner Bros. said “he didn’t know if an appeal was coming, but thinks a trial is necessary and a settlement unlikely.” Fox is in such a profitable position now. The trial to settle the dispute is still scheduled for January 20th. Do you guys think the Watchmen release date will be held? Let me hear your thoughts below. We will keep you posted on any further developments. What do you think of this legal battle and what it could mean for the Watchmen?