Dec 30, 2008

Entertainment - Studios face court battle over 'Watchmen' wrangle

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Studio giants 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros are poised for a court-room battle next month following a dispute over the upcoming superhero blockbuster "Watchmen," legal officials said Monday.

Fox sued Warner Bros. over its adaptation of Alan Moore's 12-part graphic novel after arguing it had copyright and distribution rights to the film, which is due to be released in March.

The studio said it retained rights to the movie because Warners had failed to exercise an option to acquire a remaining interest in the Fox-owned novel.

Warner Bros meanwhile denied that Fox, which allegedly bought the rights to "Watchmen" in the 1980s and spent more than 1 million dollars in developing the novel as a film, held copyright.

However in a ruling last Wednesday widely seen as a defeat for Warner Bros., Los Angeles federal judge Gary Feess indicated he intended to grant Fox's claim that it had either a copyright interest or distribution rights to the film.

Feess's written order was viewed as an encouragement on both sides to reach a settlement.

However at a status conference Monday, lawyers for both sides indicated a settlement was unlikely, prompting Feess to set a January 20 trial date.

"I'm not going to force anyone to settle if they don't want to," Feess said.

The film, directed by "300" film-maker Zack Snyder, charts the fortunes of a group of superheroes struggling for justice in an alternative 1985, where Richard Nixon is still US president and the Cold War is raging.

The novel was once regarded as impossible to turn into a mainstream film, but the success of other dark-themed superhero movies and advances in technology have made the movie adaptation a hot property.

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