Back in February news appeared that 20th Century Fox had filled a lawsuit against Warner Bros over Zack Synder’s upcoming Watchman movie. The whole case is a bit complicated and here is what it’s all about:
Fox claims that between 1986 and 1990, it acquired all movie rights to the 12-issue DC Comics series and screenplays by Charles McKeown and Sam Hamm. In 1991, Fox assigned some rights via a quitclaim to Largo International with the understanding that the studio held exclusive rights to distribute the first motion picture based on “Watchmen,” according to the lawsuit. When Largo dismantled, the rights were transferred to producer Lawrence Gordon. Under a “turnaround agreement” between Fox and Gordon, the producer agreed to pay a buy-out price to Fox if he entered into any agreement with another studio or third party to develop or produce “Watchmen,” among other things.
The project apparently bounced around to Universal and Paramount before returning to Warners. Now, Fox claims that neither Gordon nor Warners has paid the buy-out price or advised the studio of any other conditions required under the agreement, including procedures necessary to acquire the rights to “Watchmen” from Fox.
Basically, according to Fox they own rights to Alan Moore’s Watchman and Warner Bros just went ahead and made the film. Now there has been a development. A judge has denied a Warner Bros. motion to dismiss 20th Century Fox’s lawsuit over the right to make a film based on the graphic novel.
Judge appears to conclude that Fox retained distribution rights to the graphic novel penned by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons through a 1991 claim, and he concludes that under the 1994 turnaround with producer Larry Gordon, Gordon acquired an option to acquire Fox’s remaining interest in “Watchmen,” which was never exercised, thereby leaving Fox with its rights under the 1994 agreement.
This is bad for Warner Bros. Very bad. Apparently the court is still contemplating Fox’s motion for an injunction, which means that if they get it, Warner Bros will essentially be forced to give up all rights to Fox and they’ll in turn distribute the movie. The Fox rep also adds that “while the Judge’s opinion is preliminary and his views could change in the course of the litigation, his current take on the facts is consistent with our position.”