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David Poland

By David Poland

Watchman Legal Papers

Sorry this is late… and yet more Watchmen… enough to choke on… but I finally got a look at the legal papers around the Christmas Eve finding by Judge Gary Allen Feess and it does speak specifically to a couple of the rumors that are being floated out there.
First, it states that the judge has found that Warners’ primary argument consists of the notion that Fox never had any direct ownership or control to this material, therefore it didn’t have the right to execute a turnaround agreement or to expect any compensation for the agreement it had.
This is one of the silliest arguments ever made and suggests complete culpability on the part of the studio… willfulness, really (as noted in the judge’s August offering). Apparently, they have represented that they knew… and they decided Fox had no standing… at all… period.
Second, the judge finds that WB didn’t even enter into an agreement with Larry Gordon until AFTER they had been notified of Fox’s position on this. So this idea that WB innocently wandered into this situation and that Fox lay in wait for poor, innocent WB to invest heavlily in production before backdooring a claim is 100% false… if you believe the judge on the facts… which I think we have to.
Third, Warners’ other argument – as though if their frst one was valid they would need a second one – is that, somehow, because Fox negotiated a turnaround and a quitclaim with clear rules agreed to by Largo, Gordon, and Fox, which did not include a clause forcing Largo to make the movie anyway (read that again, if you can do it without laughing), Fox gave up any claims to distribution rights they held.
Ahhhhh… ha.
Finally, there is the general argument that, somehow, the Largo/Fox quitclaim, which preceded the turnaround deal, made the turnaround deal irrelevant. But that really doesn’t make much sense. Arguing that doing the turnaround deal was a mistake – which Gordon’s lawyer is doing – is pretty lame.
So… repeating… the basic claim by WB – according to the judge, as a statement of fact – is NOT what their “it’s not fair” publicity blitz has been about, but rather a claim that Fox gave up their rights with the corporate quitclaim… even though there was a turnaround agreement on the specific property pursued and signed after the quitclaim and that as a result, Fox has no rights, nor any ongoing interest, and should simply be told to go away, not even to get back the monies they spent on development. And the fact that after they gave up their interest in producing a movie, but had a deal to return monies against development in exchange for those rights and distribution rights, the deal itself – a failrly boiler plate thing – made all of their rights invalid because the deal not to make the movie led to not making the movie.
It’s time for the geeks to start getting angry about being played by Warners on this one. I can’t imagine that anyone really believes that either of Warners’ central arguments hold any water whatsoever.
Worst of all… if Warners’ had just paid the million or the $1.5 million or whatever Fox would have taken, this would have been over before it began. Instead, they rolled the dice and this is going to cost not less than 50 times that much. Look for WB to sue Gordon for their losses by summer. And watch Gordon escape that one by noting what the judge has noted… that they knew exactly what the paperwork said and made a terrible legal call that was not his call to make, however he represented the situation verbally or even in a contract indemnifying Warners.
And what of Paramount? Good question. Right now, they are just an “et al” in the suit and the question of “distribution” has not been specified as domestic or international or both. (And isn’t the reason they ended up splitting with WB because they had so much money against the versions of the movie they never made… not unlike Ben Button? I could be wrong on this… there is probably some very specific story that I don’t know and that one of you will offer… but “money against” films unmade… basic.)
Paramount needs the cash and it would be less than shocking if they ended up making some kind of deal to get their money out, take some profit down the road, and to, essentially, sell Fox the international distirbution rights with, esentially, Warners’ money. The only problem is that there is no time for Fox to ramp up worldwide distribution in time for the March release. So could Paramount get paid a distribution fee and its costs and some backend and give the money rights to Fox. Sure. Why not? This could end up being a viable answer, as Paramount made a very wise investment, but can’t really afford to see the money get tied up in multi-player court cases and delayed by a year or more.
But really… it’s completely conjecture at this point.
Some of the paperwork…

8 Responses to “Watchman Legal Papers”

  1. IOIOIOI says:

    Heat: how is it you never get it? Did someone not watch enough MST3k? Seriously; people dislike FOX as a studio. If this were universal, sony, or even Lionsgate. No one would raise a stink.
    This being a studio ran by a guy that tried to fuck over GAVIN HOOD and HIS WOLVERINE MOVIE! Well, that does not sit well with people, and it never will.
    How you miss simple freakin sentiments from a group of people is beyond me. You are so fucking silly sometimes, but that makes YOU A DRAW SON! IT MAKES YOU A DRAW! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

  2. damon says:

    Right is right. Fair is fair. WB blew it and f’up with the fans.

  3. David Poland says:

    Sorry IO… the law is not a popularity contest.

  4. movieman says:

    Does anyone seriously believe that all of this legal game-playing between Fox and WB will delay the March release of “Watchmen”?
    Nah; didn’t think so.

  5. Martin S says:

    WB’s hope is to gin up enough IO’s that EW and the trades and Finke will start writing pieces about the “backlash against Wolverine” as a way to kow Fox because they have nothing to lose. The problem for WB is that the more mainstream news this makes, the likelier its going to get CNBC/WSJ coverage. Then, WB loses the argument because it will about business and not delusional perceptions of fanboys.
    So picture Time-Warner stock, hovering at 15 USD, getting caught with its legal pants down and then deciding to pursue a losing court case that could shelve the first big release of ’09. It’s a dream for guys like Icahn who would still like to break the company up. People would have to be fired and as Dave said, Gordon will be sued. This is without Paramount’s piece or whatever issues this would raise between WB and Legendary – whom I’m sure in today’s hedge climate are not going to shrug and say “it’s only money”. I wouldn’t be surprised if Legendary had a clause that says they take control over 50/50 pictures that have run amok or get cashed out.

  6. Chucky in Jersey says:

    Distribution on “Watchmen”: WB for US/Canada, Par elsewhere, most countries opening day-and-date with US/Canada.

  7. movieman says:

    Have you detected any Oscar-whoring yet in the “Watchmen” trailers, Chucky?
    As stated previously, I’d be shocked if this thing doesn’t open in March as planned. The pissing contest between WB and Fox is just a tempest in a teapot.

  8. IOIOIOI says:

    Poland: YOU KEEP MISSING THE POINT! Geeks get your dick in such an uproar, that you seemingly miss the point of all of this. No one states that Warners is right in this situation. They are one of the biggest companies on this planet, with a group of lawyers, that apparently cannot do DUE DILIGENCE BETTER THAN A BUNCH OF AMBULANCE CHASERS!
    The point remains: IT’S FOX! If it’s Uni, Paramount, Sony, or even fucking Lionsgate. NO ONE GIVES A SHIT. The fact that it’s Rothman and FOX, that pisses people off. What’s so hard for you to understand about this point?
    Oh I forgot! YOU HATE GEEKS! Wow. You lost. THE END! Move the fuck on, sir. Move the fuck on.

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