Warner Bros and Fox settle Watchmen dispute

Zack Snyder's hotly-anticipated adaptation of the Alan Moore graphic novel set for release on March 6

Watchmen, the eagerly-awaited big-screen version of Alan Moore's graphic novel, will hit cinemas on March 6 after all, now that a long-running Hollywood battle over distribution rights has been settled out of court.

Warner Bros, which has spent more than $130m developing the project, said yesterday it had reached an agreement to pay rival studio Twentieth Century Fox an upfront cash fee and a percentage of the film's final gross. Variety reports that the initial sum, which is to reimburse Fox for legal costs and development work the studio conducted in the early 90s, could reach a figure of between $5m (£3.3m) and $10m. Fox will also receive between 5% and 8.5% of gross box-office takings, a figure that could run into the millions if the film performs well.

The settlement means Warner Bros can roll out Watchmen on its originally scheduled release date and Fox won't have its logo on the film. Until recently it had looked as if an impasse between the studios might cause Los Angeles judge Gary Feess to issue an injunction halting the film's release until the matter had been decided in court.

The two studios yesterday released a joint statement which read: "Warner Bros and Twentieth Century Fox have resolved their dispute regarding the rights to the upcoming motion picture Watchmen in a confidential settlement. Warner Bros acknowledges that Fox acted in good faith in bringing its claims, which were asserted prior to the start of principal photography. Fox acknowledges that Warner Brothers acted in good faith in defending against those claims. Warner Bros and Fox, like all Watchmen fans, look forward with great anticipation to this film's March 6 release in theatres."

The debate over Watchmen rested on Fox's contention that it retained distribution rights under a 1994 agreement with producer Larry Gordon, who took the project to Warners after attempts to make it with Fox, Universal and Paramount. Judge Feess decided on Christmas Eve that Fox maintained at the very least distribution rights, and urged the two parties to come to a settlement rather than fight it out in court.

The agreement marks the second time in four years that Warner Bros has paid out over rights. The $17.5m it was reportedly forced to part with to settle claims over 2005's Dukes of Hazzard is likely to be eclipsed by the final Watchmen figure.


Ben Child

The GuardianTramp

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