‘Watchmen’ Trial Pushed to January 20
The eagerly awaited trial pitting 20th Century Fox against Warner Bros. over The Watchmen has been delayed from January 6 to January 20, according to Variety. On Monday, Judge Gary Allen Feess declined to “issue a ruling on whether Fox or Warner Bros. controls the rights to the project.”
The delay is a result of the judge having a criminal matter also scheduled for the 6th, which takes precedence over Hollywood behemoths. He declined both sides’ request for summary judgment regarding the rights, saying, “the contracts between Fox and Watchmen producer Larry Gordon are so open to interpretation that a trial is required.”
Warner insists the movie will still open, as scheduled, on March 6.
Watchmen has had a complicated history from when the rights were first sold to Fox in 1986. The rights have been with Warners once before, when Joel Silver and Terry Gilliam were attached to produce and direct, respectively. Universal had the rights for what seem like 15 minutes where they had David Hayter write a draft of the script. Creator Alan Moore praised this draft saying it was, “as close as I could imagine anyone getting to Watchmen.” The Hayter draft was the basis for the version that was eventually filmed. After Universal the project went to Paramount, who dropped the project because of budget issues as management changed from Sherry Lansing to Brad Grey. Paramount has received the international distribution rights in exchange for their turnaround rights.
The issue of contention comes from an agreement between Fox and producer Lawrence Gordon. Gordon has been attached to the project since it’s inception and when his company, Largo International, dissolved he purchased the rights from Fox and moved it around until the film found it’s final home with Warner, parent company to DC Comics which published the maxiseries in the first place. Fox contends that their deal with Gordon required him to resubmit the film to Fox every time there was a changed element. In this context "element" can mean anything from a new subplot to a new starring actor. Fox says that Gordon’s failure to do this when the project moved to Warner and acquired director Zack Snyder means that they retain some of the rights to make this film.
Fox said they spent in excess of $1 million in developing the film before giving up and Gordon has said he has paid nearly $400,000 to Fox to settle that debt.
Warner contends that they have settled all the rights issues through their settlement with Paramount, the previous rights holder. They dispute that Fox has any claim on the property at all.
Fox’s suit, filed in February, contends that it retains distribution rights to the graphic novel penned by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons. It asserts that Gordon’s option to acquire Fox’s remaining interest in "Watchmen" was never exercised, thereby leaving Fox with its rights under a 1994 turnaround agreement.