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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

On Watchmen…

The judge has given a ruling… nothing really new for me to say… the only thing I find interesting is that both side must have pushed him for a quick ruling as delaying until the end of January would surely have led to an injunction on the release of the film… settle soon.. Fox wants money and a logo in front, not to distribute the film or to interrupt what seems to be a successful sell by WB… if you do anything because you think the geeks are going to rebel, you’re idiots… just eat your porridge, WB and/or Paramount. You screwed up on Lawyering 101… clear your rights.
Hot Blog, 8/31“Once the judge decides – he may have already – whether Fox is owed money or not, he might grant the injunction just to move the settlement along… but more likely, he will tell the lawyers, in chambers, to settle the damned thing before he settles it for them.”
He’s now done that publicly.
This is not a complex case. Really. Judge Judy could have it done in under 30 minutes. She would either bitch out Fox for knowing and not saying anything before awarding them the full amount and a share of the profits or she would yell at Warners for not being more careful before handing Fox their interest payment and maybe legal fees and throwing them out. And as silly as that sounds, it’s pretty much what’s going on here. Either the pawn ticket was paid or Gordon/WB/Par threw a 20 on the counter, grabbed the property that was once theirs, and ran off with it, hoping not to be chased.
Pretty much what the judge found…
8/19
“And what, dear reader, of Paramount, the owner of the foreign rights to this project? And Legendary, which likely footed about 25% of the overall cost of the film?
300 did 6.6% more at the overseas box office than at home. The film is due for near day-n-date release in most of the major international markets. If Fox prevails, they have dibs on all of that too. So all of a sudden, even if the domestic/world split is 50/50, the math gets uglier for WB.
Made Up Numbers – $400 million worldwide. Fox gets 10% of the gross rentals… $22 million. $11 million of that is Paramount

15 Responses to “On Watchmen…”

  1. The Pope says:

    Seems to me that it takes a Federal Judge to find a hit movie for Fox.

  2. Martin S says:

    Home video needs to be settled upon. The disc sales are going to blow theatrical way out of the water, something Fox should know, considering it’s going to be the ultimate quadruple-dip release. The way Snyder split the story and produced certain parts just for DVD means Fox should have a heavier claim on participation. WB should end up on the shortest end, considering Legendary will most likely get paid first.

  3. rossers says:

    Could WB just pull a power play and take the movie out completely– is this possible, and what would it do?
    Is there a possibility of a geek revolt?

  4. Edward Douglas says:

    “Seems to me that it takes a Federal Judge to find a hit movie for Fox.”
    I knew The Pope wore a pointy hat… didn’t realize he had such a pointed sense of humor.

  5. anghus says:

    Fox really has kind of positioned themselves as the used car salesmen of the major studios.
    WB was stupid, and this should have been settled before it went into production.

  6. The Pope says:

    Edward, if I made you laugh I’m glad. I’ll try not to be so Po(p)e faced in future!

  7. doug r says:

    I for one hope this picture gets a decent release. It is such a shame when work like this gets tied up or sat on.

  8. Martin S says:

    I always assume MCN’ers are smarter than the AICN sheeple, but sometimes I wonder.
    Think – Fox just came off their worst year in about a decade. Why would they kill a release for one the highest-profiles films of the year? What good does that do them? With Wolverine coming out within weeks of Watchmen, why would they want to risk creating an honest sit-out? If anything, the loss is going to push WB into making sure the release is as strong as possible, because they’re going to be splitting their end with Fox and not Legendary, who will get paid first.
    Fox was justified to do this. It wasn’t a technicality or a loophole. Gordon, the guy who bought the f’ing rights for Fox in the first place couldn’t get it produced outside of Fox because of the deal he created for himself when he stepped down. He ran Fox at the time and when he left, he made a deal so that nobody but him could touch this property. If he didn’t do this, the f’ing movie would have been made by now, most likely as a co-production between Fox and WB.
    Gordon has control of The Ticking Man.
    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CEFDF1F39F93BA35754C0A966958260&sec=&spon=
    That script was a milestone in price escalation, and how it remained unproduced never made any sense, until now. He’s got a drawer full of properties that are part of an incredibly stupid deal that in essence, say “you can take them as is, but if they change in any creative way, we get first right to produce them”. Gordon made that deal because as a former head and succesful producer, he never thought he was going to leave Fox or that they would call their option on a former chief.
    But as we’ve seen, no one will touch these properties because of the deal in place. So instead of doing the responsible thing and either 1) buying out Fox or 2) selling them back, he decided on 3) bullshitting people. I don’t think WB was a victim. I’m sure they’ve been stewing for years over how to get the rights back, but I doubt Snyder knew. Just looking back at McWeeney’s interview with Snyder and how early Gordon had him in development, shows me he was roped in with little question. And Fox did try and clarify the matter before and during physical production, which went unanswered by WB, so what more were they to do? How pissed would baby fanboys be if they filed an injunction and stopped shooting? What crap agit-prop would AICN “report” as Gordon’s proxy to put the pressure on Fox?
    The movie will come out. WB will make a fraction of what they wanted. What Legendary knew, who knows. They’re another that I’m left to wonder how much secured capital they really have in-hand compared to pledged. A recent upbeat interview with Horn read, to me, like WB is cash-strapped.

  9. RudyV says:

    From Dan O’Brien’s “

  10. Martin S says:

    Hey Rudy, facts apparently don’t matter to the guy from Cracked, but how about you? Does it matter to this guy’s entire piece is based on the faulty premise that Fox has had the ability to produce this thing at a whim’s notice? Because they didn’t.
    I think the piece that best sums up how, let’s just call it “uninformed” some bloggers are has to got o Drew McWeeney, a guy who was in the dead-middle of this entire mess.
    http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/2008-12-6-motion-captured/posts/2008-12-26-worst-christmas-present-ever-from-fox
    Where to start? How about how he underplays Gordon’s obvious bullshit by making it sound like a legal glitch.
    Or how about how his entire piece is based around another faulty premise – that Fox said nothing until after production was completed – when it’s been established that Fox had contacted WB after Moriarty’s interview with Snyder, where he just happened to walk into the guy’s production office on the WB lot and found him already at work on the adaptation. This was also before WB finalized anything with Snyder, according to the timeline.
    At least Drew’s honest that his disdain for Fox comes the fact that they won’t acknowledge his existence. Other Kewl News sites are simply trying to gin up Fox hatred via the broad brush of Murdoch/Fox News, while sidesteppingthat Peter Chernin is an open Democrat and Soros is funding half the Fox slate via his hedge.
    But what does that matter?
    Personally, I was hoping Gordon would be indignant and this thing would go to court. The swath of depositions would have been huge. Drew’s piece could have been cited for evidence and used against Gordon/WB.

  11. RudyV says:

    At this point the facts really don’t matter anymore. Fox looks like an asshole for pulling a lawyerly move reminiscent of Paramount’s claim that “Coming to America” did not, in fact, make a profit and therefore they didn’t have to pay Art Buchwald for coming up with the idea. It doesn’t matter if every judge in the land states that Fox was entirely within their rights to do this–it just plain, flat-out looks wrong, smells wrong, and feels wrong. Period.
    Fifteen summers ago I traveled cross-country to a massive teacher job fair in Houston where I discovered two things: that most of my fellow interviewees were local teachers who already had jobs, and if they happened to receive a better offer they were legally entitled to keep their existing job until the first day of school. Therefore, nobody could make a binding job offer for another two months, after the school year had already begun. That, too, was perfectly legal, and yet it was stupid, wrong, and completely illogical.
    I’m sure I could come up with other examples, like the Santa War described on this weekend’s “This American Life”, where the commentator compared it to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, suggesting that both sides present a history of the dispute that do not overlap in the least.
    So Fox and WB will slug it out behind closed doors and the movie will be released. End of story? Not quite. How about “Wolverine”, which may very well go down in flames because Fox has pissed off the fanbase so thoroughly. Sensible? No. Logical? No. But boy does Fox deserve it.

  12. Martin S says:

    That makes no sense. No personal offense meant, but I have yet to see an argument against Fox that isn’t based on sheer emotion. And this is business, pure and simple.
    As I’ve pointed out from first day, there’s one cat responsible for this And even after the F’ing judge makes the same conclusion, Gordon is somehow a victim of big, bad, Rupert. Amazing.

  13. RudyV says:

    Oh yeah, that’s right–the dude who gave us Faux News. Yet another reason to hate the company.
    Seriously, though, this whole affair looks like another round of the game everyone loves to play: “Stupid or Evil?” We’ve all heard stories about Hollywood execs desperate to buy comic-book properties like, say, Love and Rockets, yet they still ask the creators stupid questions like “Do they have to be lesbian?” Or, in the case of Hellboy–even after the success of the first–they asked Del Toro “Does he have to be red?” and “Does he have to be named HELL-boy?”
    But this event seems to have crossed over to the other side, as if Fox wanted to see just how much money WB would commit to the project before they’d finally send over a note bearing the imprint of a notary public. If, however, they did send over such a note early on, wouldn’t that mean WB was fully aware that it was funding an illegal production, and that all of its contacts with the cast and crew were essentially lies? If so, how often does this sort of thing happen? Does a studio merely assume it can just spread some money around and all the problems will go away? That sounds less like business and more like organized crime.

  14. Triple Option says:

    RudyV wrote: But this event seems to have crossed over to the other side, as if Fox wanted to see just how much money WB would commit to the project before they’d finally send over a note bearing the imprint of a notary public.
    I’m not about to suggest the reason Fox took so long to file the injunction was that it’s legal affairs team was out doing pro bono work for orphans, but I don’t think they were necessarily scheming from the deck of a Trident “Wait ’til they get out into really deep water before we send out the torpedoes, muwahahahha!” The more likely response from 20th Legal Affairs Head when Fox may’ve first read or got word through the grapevine that WB was working Watchman may’ve been, “I’m not a f*ing babysitter!”
    I don’t know if this is a fair representation but I’d say termination or turnaround agreements are essentially insurance policies. They basically insure that one’s studio’s trash doesn’t become another studio’s blockbuster…without getting paid, that is. Reimbursement of costs seems reasonable and I guess you can look at wanting a piece of the net as the “draft pick to be determined later.” How much a studio wants the see another studio refurbish its relics could be another discussion entirely but the agreements themselves in some part are essentially ass covering devices to prevent looking like dumbasses in the down the road.
    Like insurance policies, where underwriting establishes with the insured a set of conditions to which the party must agree to and meet (don’t smoke, pass a physical, have a driver’s license, not been cancelled by another insurer, no prior dui’s, own the home, pass fire code, etc), the turnaround agreement expresses conditions that the initial rights holder must meet SHOULD anything happen thereafter. In other words it’s designed to mediate the results of transactions not to govern the process leading to the transactions. (Most of which I believe would be unenforceable). Although some processes could not happen because the results may lie in breech of said transactions. e.g. Someone sets up a project at Dreamworks animation. Part of the terms of the turnaround agreement may be that the producer & writer can’t set up the project at Pixar/Disney – no matter how much you pay them.
    Does Etna cancel someone’s insurance because they heard or even saw one of their insured smoking? Hardly, but you have a heart attack guess what? They send out a nice thin little envelop with single sheet of paper stating “refuse coverage due to willful disregard to items set forth in the policy.” Can the patient say, “Dude, that’s no fair! You shoulda cancelled my policy years ago when you smelled smoke on my premium payment! Not waited until I got a $68,000 bill from Harbor Med Ctr!”
    Uhhh, maybe, but compliance doesn’t have time for that bs. Likewise, no one at Fox has time to go around making phone calls to dudes at WB or any place else saying, “Hey! Hey, I saw you Barney’s having lunch with some director and the waiter said he heard you mention the word “Watchman.” Listen, I’m not saying nothing, just remember that deal that got cut 18 years ago…”
    Another issue that may’ve prevented Fox for stepping in sooner was that producers exaggerate (to be pc). Crap gets leaked in the trades that’s not 100% accurate. “Big shot producers has gobbled up the rights to the latest spec script from funny, nerd screenwriter” may be the lead but prods will tell that stuff to reporters even when deals aren’t final to do things like scare other prods away from a property they want or gain mo for their project. Reading something like Oprah in talks to reprise Sandy Duncan’s role at Peter Pan may have as much merit as Liz Smith giving a pr reach around to use the phrase Oscar buzz when describing the early word on Paris Hilton’s upcoming release. I’m not sure an early Variety article shoulda gotten Fox leagal off their duff, though prudence suggesting elsewise. For the most part the turnarounds pay restitution after projects go on, and demand a payment on profit from future earnings. It’s not, pay us back our money BEFORE you show it to anyone or pay us a percentage of projected revenue.
    I would agree something does have a wiff tarnish on a halo for things to be as angelic as Fox claims it they are. Gordon it seems sold WB the Brooklyn Bridge but even at that he musta showed them of a bogus deed. I can’t imagine WB going through w/out settling up, unless there’s some like some unwritten code for studio heads to keep their pet projects that they figured they’d stand behind. OR, they just thought they could write a check for Fox’s cut on their profits, which a few years down the line would turn out to be a few coins pulled out of the seat cushion.
    My real guess, apart from WB being duped, and who knows, maybe Gordon actually believed he was in the clear, was that WB legal affairs thought they’d be able to hammer out a deal with Fox, or any necessary party, before it all got wrapped up or came to this point. I don’t know what all was included in the initial deal(s) or what Fox’s position was prior to the suit, but for this project to have been held up so long, presumably over rights, then once it starts going forward, it’d be reasonable to expect that major hurdles had been cleared and final ones would be settled along the way. Maybe Fox was unreasonable in what they thought would be fair compensation, although it seems to me like that would’ve already been pre-determined, or maybe WB treated Fox like little punks and didn’t pay out because they didn’t think it’d show up on their credit report. I just don’t see Fox as maniacal or leveraging the law on this as much as the backlash seems to suggest. A large part of me keeps saying to myself, “well, it can’t be that obvious,” but I’m still not seeing what WB’s defense is.

  15. Martin S says:

    Triple – I like the insurance analogy. That’s well thought out.
    IMO, the linchpin is why Universal and Paramount passed. Articles have claimed that Paramount dropped it over the change in management, but that only holds water if Grey had already begun work on the Marvel deal and Arad wanted a no-compete. Otherwise, I have to believe Grey would release one of the canons of superhero properties during the hottest run for superhero films. So the only other logical reason for Grey to kill the project was the Fox clause. As for Universal, the NYT reported something a few months ago, but it was also some vague issue.
    My overall point ties into Dave’s recent piece. Projects go into turnaround all the time and get bogged down. This one had been a hot potato unlike any other I can recall and each time it got near a greenlight, the studio just let it go.

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