'Watchmen' Watch: Summary Judgment Tentatively Denied; Trial Moved to Jan 20; Fanboys Should Start Getting Nervous

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'Watchmen' Watch: Summary Judgment Tentatively Denied; Trial Moved to Jan 20; Fanboys Should Start Getting Nervous

Wed Dec 17, 2008 @ 02:45AM PST

By Matthew Belloni

Watchmen_lawsuit_2The first thing I wondered when I read today that Judge Gary Feess has delayed until Jan 20 the trial between Fox and Warner Bros. over the rights to the upcoming "Watchmen" movie is: How long can Warners wait this thing out before it is forced to a) move the film's release date; b) risk opening a movie under the cloud of potentially disastrous litigation or c) settle the darn case? Currently the Zack Snyder adaptation of the famous graphic novel is scheduled to open March 6, which means that the studio will have to start showing it to critics and tastemakers sometime in February. The ad campaign will follow, and I'm hearing that the various studio departments working on the film are still operating full steam ahead.

But what if the movie's fate isn't resolved in time? Shifting the release date would be hugely problematic, of course, because at this point the major spring and summer releases have already been set and the would-be tentpole would thus have to muscle in on someone else's turf. The other option is to pretend that everything is A-OK while betting that the trial will turn out favorably. But there's no telling how long a trial would last, what the outcome would be, or whether a jury would even be able to resolve this complex dispute spanning years and years of development. 

So Judge Feess' tentative refusal to grant summary judgment for either side likely sent the parties into full-on settlement mode. Fox is notoriously tough in litigation, and it has been especially aggressive in this case. But on the other hand, I just don't see Warners letting this spat get in the way of a potential blockbuster's success--even if it means sharing credit on the film or swallowing its pride and writing a bigger check than it would like. Could there be a settlement before the new year? For the sake of fanboys everywhere, let's hope so.    

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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