“Watchmen” Lawsuit Settled


The 11th hour dispute comes to a close as Warner Bros and Fox have reached an agreement over the release of the upcoming comic book film.

While the terms of the agreement have yet to (and will most likely not) be disclosed, the Hollywood Reporter has word that studio giants Warner Bros. and Fox have settled their dispute over the rights of the upcoming “Watchmen” film and plan to request a case dismissal to Judge Gary Feess.

The road from graphic novel to feature film has been long, strange and extremely troubled, as the film rights to the legendary comic were secured by producer Lawrence Gordon for Fox all the way back in 1986, while the adaptation has been shopped around to other major studios, including Universal and Paramount Pictures as early as 1988. In its latest bout of problems, 20th Century Fox filed suit against Warner Bros. in February 2008, staking claim on its original rights to the film, believing that it had, at the very least, the rights to distribute “Watchmen” and had originally sought to prevent its release.

Fox’s ace in the hole rests in Gordon himself, as the studio claims that when they transferred some of the filming rights of “Watchmen” to the producer in 1991, it retained the option of distribution, sequel rights and a share of the profits should it fall into the hands of any other studio. In a separate, but related turnaround deal, it also claimed that Gordon would not fully control the rights of the adaptation until Fox’s initial development costs (estimated to be around $1 million) had been reimbursed.

On December 24, 2008, it appeared as though Fox would get their way as Judge Feess ruled that he intended to grant its claim to copyright over the adaptation, threatening “Watchmen’s” release, intended for March 6, 2009. To take a blow of that magnitude was never in Warner Bros. best interests and so a settlement seemed inevitable from that point on. With the terms of the deal undisclosed, the Hollywood Reporter writes that it is said to included a cash payment to Fox and a percentage of the films profits on the basis that Fox will not be co-distributor, nor will they own any rights to the property from now on. The rival studios intend to release a joint statement concerning the deal this Friday.

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