A Los Angeles judge ruled on December 24 that 20th Century Fox owns the distribution rights to Warner Bros.' adaptation of acclaimed graphic novel Watchmen, which could put the film’s March 6, 2009 release date in jeopardy, Variety reports.
“Fox owns a copyright interest consisting of, at the very least, the right to distribute the Watchmen motion picture,” the ruling said.
According to the article, Fox filed a suit against Warner Bros. in February claiming that they retain the rights to distribute the film under a 1994 turnaround agreement, having originally acquired the rights to Watchmen in the late 1980s. Warner Bros., however, has denied claims that Fox has any remaining stake in the film.
Judge Gary Allen Feess said he would elaborate on this ruling in the near future, and has set a January 20 trial date for Fox’s suit.
I’m no legal expert, but this all seems to indicate that the Watchmen film—directed by Zack Snyder—may run into some major problems leading up to its release. In a worst-case scenario, the film could be shelved until the suit reaches some sort of resolution. From what we’ve seen so far, Snyder looks to have done justice to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ masterpiece, which was long thought to be unfilmable due to its epic scope and bleak, deconstructionist themes. It would be a shame if Watchmen's arduous journey to the silver screen is halted by legal complications this close to its release date.