WatchmenWatch: Will Judge Feess stop the release? We'll know on Jan 20

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WatchmenWatch: Will Judge Feess stop the release? We'll know on Jan 20

Wed Jan 07, 2009 @ 01:38AM PST

By Matthew Belloni

Watchmen_lawsuit The dreaded injunction. Warner Bros. has been nervously pulling its collective hair out during these two weeks since Judge Gary Feess ruined the studio's Christmas by declaring Fox has a right to distribute "Watchmen." Now we'll know soon enough whether the film will suffer the same fate as "Dukes of Hazzard"--the last time someone was able to hold Warners over a million-dollar barrell in order to release a movie it paid handsomely to make and market.

The two studios have agreed to forgo a jury trial on the issue and let Judge Feess decide on Jan 20 whether to enjoin the film's release. They'll get to the other damages and rights issues via a trial later if they need to, but given the money Warners has already pumped into the pricey graphic novel adaptation and its marketing campaign to prep it for a planned Mar 6 bow, it's understandable that the studio wants first to find out whether it's going to be able to release the movie. 

Interesting legal strategy on both sides.

Warners must believe that, despite his ruling that Fox maintained rights because producer Larry Gordon failed to comply with his duties in Turnaround before taking the project to other studios, if Feess was going to stop the release he would have already done so. Feess has already denied an earlier request for an injunction. 

Fox, on the other hand, is likely riding so high on the Christmas Eve ruling that it thinks Fees will stop the release, allowing it to name its price for Warners to settle.

The stakes are pretty high here--superhero-movie high--so look for the collective firepower of two studios to be unleashed in court on Jan 20.       

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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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