Thursday, January 8, 2009

Legal Woes For Watchmen

On January 20th a judge will decide the fate of Watchmen in the ownership dispute between Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros.(unless Warner manages to have the decision moved up to January 12th). Fox asserts they have distribution rights to Watchmen based on copyright claims from 1991 and 1994, despite disavowing the film as recently as 2005. A judge sided with Fox's claims on December 24th and now we're all waiting for January 20th to see if Warner will be allowed to release the movie or if Fox will prevent that from happening.

Most assumed Fox was angling for a big cash settlement. A less likely but possible outcome would be that Fox would gain at least partial distribution rights. Turns out Fox just wants the movie to not be released period. That's just insane. How does Fox benefit from that? That would only serve to hurt Warner. Are Fox that vindictive? There's so much at stake here and I believe Fox is striving for this worst case scenario in order to squeeze the absolute most that they can out of Warner. Anything would be better than completely shelving the film, so Warner might be forced to make some hefty sacrifices.

What impact will this have on the fans? Comparatively little. Obviously no good could come from Fox gaining control of the film and potentially tinkering with it. But that's not likely to happen. What probably will happen is that Watchmen will enter the marketplace with a big burden to carry. Warner will have already lost money, if not to Fox than at least than at least to their legal bills. There will be higher expectations placed on the film that it might not be able to meet. Superman Returns was considered a disappointment not because it lost money, but because it wasn't such a mega success that it paid for all the earlier Superman movies that failed to make it into production. Likewise Watchmen might end up struggling to recoup all of its costs.

It was already an uphill battle for Watchmen being a big budget film with an R-rating and no big name stars. Now keep in mind that the overlap between genuine quality and financial success in the film industry is often coincidental. Even if Watchmen flops it could still be considered a good movie and achieve a cult following. In fact it might be better if it does flop as it'll discourage any ill-advised follow-ups. Then again the opposite could be true and the lawsuit will result in the movie studio willing to bleed the property dry in order to recoup its legal losses. I anticipate the straight to DVD release of Watchmen Babies in V for Vacation

I've been pretty displeased with Fox lately even before this whole business reared its ugly head. Still I wouldn't have thought they would pull a dick move like this. They waited until this long to bring up this lawsuit? This situation should've been dealt with before filming had even begun. Some folks online have bandied about the possibility of boycotting Fox. Usually I find boycotts only marginally more meaningless than online petitions. Unless a company is actively trying to harm children, you're never going to rally enough people to your cause in numbers large enough to affect anything. Still I can't totally rule out participating in such a boycott if things don't work out for Warner.

Would my life be really affected all that much? Not really. It would probably do me some good to stop watching Fox's animated programs on Sunday nights. They've been declining in quality for awhile. I'm already behind on keeping up with Terminator The Sarah Connor Chronicles. At this point I should just wait to the buy the season set on DVD, which will be okay since the show airs on Fox but is produced by Warner. I don't really follow new episodes of House either. Can I still watch the repeats on the Universal owned USA network? There isn't any DVDs coming from Fox that I feel I particularly need right now.

There are only two theatrical films coming from Fox that I'm interested in and honestly, I could live without seeing X-Men Origins: Wolverine. That's going to suck but Fox blocking Watchmen from being released will suck worse. The two films have virtually the same target audience. It would hurt Fox where it hurts if attendance is less than expected for their summer tentpole film. Still I'm not not going to see Dragonball Evolution though. And that's why boycotts never work. While I accept that we could never change anything it might at least make us feel better about our righteous indignation.


Gabriel said...

Ha, double-negative.

Gabriel said...


Jon said...

I like what you're saying but the way you're saying it is reminding me of high school report.

Come on man Blog-that-shit-up.