Santa left an early present in Warner Bros. stocking on Wednesday… a lump of coal in the form of an early ruling in 20th Century Fox’s Watchmen copyright lawsuit against them. Nikki Finke is reporting that while Los Angeles-based District Court Judge Gary Feess had set a mid-January start date for a trial, he instead issued an order on Wednesday stating that “Fox should prevail.”
“Fox owns a copyright interest consisting of, at the very least, the right to distribute the ‘Watchmen’ motion picture,” the ruling states. What does this mean? A few things actually…
For one thing, the trial start date is now seemingly moot. The judge himself suggests that both WB and FOX start talking immediately. “The parties may wish to turn their efforts from preparing for trial to negotiating a resolution of this dispute or positioning the case for review.” Secondly, it’s all but guaranteed that whatever happens, Watchmen will no longer be a purely WB release. Expect to see Fox’s logo on the screen alongside (or instead of) the WB’s. “Negotiating a resolution” translates into ransom money that WB will be paying Fox.
Most importantly, all of this means the March 2009 release date is still in potential jeapardy. The best bet for that release date will be for WB to fork over either a flat fee if Fox expects Watchmen to be a dud, or a percentage of the profits if Fox expects a blockbuster hit. If WB refuses to bend over on this, then they may choose to appeal the judge’s ruling… which could push Watchmen‘s release into 2010 and beyond.
Merry Fucking Christmas Watchmen fans!