Okay, look. I keep getting angry emails from people telling me that I should either (a) boycott FOX, or (b) boycott the Watchmen or (c) boycott people who want to boycott FOX because the Adam West Batman series needs to be released NOW ZOMG NOW NOW NOW. Here's what I know and what you should know before you haul off calling for boycotts:
1. If you think that any company in Los Angeles didn't realize that Warner Brothers ended up greenlighting and filming Watchmen, you're adorable and deserve a pat on the head.
2. Warner Brothers is the devil. But more than that, they let the rumor out that they will no longer be producing movies with "strong female leads," which means no Wonder Woman movie.
3. Warner Brothers (Satan) was more than happy to tell Paramount, who was the last to try and develop the movie before it ended up with Warners, to go fuck themselves when Paramount offered to co-finance the movie.
4. FOX (Satan's sphincter) was more than happy to wait until Warner Brothers spent a metric assload of cash to make Watchmen before it decided to sue.
All this means is that this is clearly a case of two petulant first graders fighting over the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip. It's the coolest, shiniest toy of the season, and they both saw it, both want it, and both will act like assholes to get it. Neither side is innocent enough for me to want to boycott either of them exclusively. But if you're itching to show those sunsabitches who's boss, please do something constructive, because you can stomp your feet all you want, but you know damn well you're going to sneak in to the Wolverine movie.
Here's what you do. FOX head Peter Chernin founded a charity called Malaria No More. Its goal is to stop the spread of Malaria by buying things like mosquito nets and whatnot. If you hate Warner Brothers for being so stupid and misogynistic, please donate all your spare pennies to Malaria No More. (Bonus: You donate before the end of the year and your donation is doubled. Tax deduction!)
However, if you really hate FOX and want to get back at them, why not try out WB head Barry Meyer's favorite charity, United Friends of the Children? UFC is an organization that tries to help foster kids out by improving the system they're get stuck in. This year Barry and his wife donated a quarter of a million dollars to start up a college scholarship fund to help foster kids achieve a higher education. Doesn't that sound nice? If you so desperately want to show FOX how much you hate them, donate to United Friends of the Children.
If you have no idea why I think you should watch Damages and get a clue, read on:
First, to understand all this, you probably should know what a "summary judgment" is. It's when one side (or in this case, both) of a lawsuit files a motion with a judge to look over all the evidence and try to make some sort of decision before the case goes to trial. (Or, at least, as far as I can tell from watching "Damages," that's roughly what it is.) This usually is a means of getting the other side to bargain or strike up a settlement, so everyone doesn't have to waste time and money in court.
The #1 reason this FOX vs WB thing doesn't want to go to trial is because the trial date is too close to the expected release date of Watchmen in March. Which is why both sides each filed a motion for summary judgment in November. What was surprising to me was that on December 25th, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feess decided that it seemed to him FOX was perfectly right to insist it should get to distribute Watchmen, siding with FOX but urging both sides to try and settle the matter between themselves. This was after he denied both motions for summary judgment on December 15th.
Clearly the case is very convoluted, with FOX optioning the rights to Watchmen over 20 years ago, but never being able to do much with it in 5 years (when it finally gave part of the rights to one of its former studio heads, Lawrence Gordon, who is producing the movie.) The comic got handed around Hollywood like an under-aged prostitute, finally ending up at Warner Brothers over ten years after the initial deal with Gordon and FOX. For me, the problem arises with FOX not doing a damn thing, legally speaking, until Warner Brothers had the film already shot and in post-production.
Honestly, if you were to ask my opinion about such things, I'd say both Warners and FOX can both take long walks off short piers. Warner Brothers has a history of playing fast-and-loose with other people's rights to develop (and, indeed, gave Paramount the finger when they asked to help co-finance and produce the movie -- the $100 million budget being the main reason Paramount head Brad Grey put a stop to filming the flick in the first place.) (You really have to be a horrible person to make me choose Paramount over yourself, just FYI.) But FOX obviously waited until Warner Brothers sunk a ton of money into actually making the film before it decided to sue for rights to distribute. That's just a dick move.
In the summary judgments filed last month, Warners said it was willing to pay out part of the profits to FOX in order to get the movie released on time. FOX said it was all or nothing. The Judge apparently closed his eyes and pointed in an effort to get this case off his docket.
I'm disappointed with this case because it illustrates just what is so very wrong with Hollywood's development process, and yet will probably do absolutely nothing to help solve it. FOX didn't like any of the scripts or ideas pitched for the adaptation of Watchmen. As a result they pretty much gave up on it -- but because it's Hollywood, they of course don't want to LOOK LIKE they've given up on it, because what if someone else produces it and makes it a hit? You'd look like some kind of moron, that's what!
So FOX strikes a deal with Gordon (the producer), who shops it to Universal. Universal spends a bunch of money trying to get it to work. When they decide it's not doable, Paramount pays Universal 10% of what was spent to try to get the movie made, in order to give it a try themselves. Then Paramount spends a ton of money (over $7 million, supposedly,) just looking around at stuff to put in the movie.
I swear to God, nowhere other than Hollywood can someone spend seven million fucking dollars to "scout locations." If you don't know what location scouting involves, in a nutshell, it's: driving to a place, looking around, taking snapshots and deciding later if that place is a good place to shoot a scene. SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS. Were they actually flying to Mars to scout locations? (Supposedly Paramount "built some sets," too, but what sort of person builds sets on a movie that hasn't even been officially given the go-ahead yet? A crazy person?)
Anyway, because Paramount only paid 10% of Universal's "lost development money" to Universal and not 100%, Warners said Paramount didn't actually have the development rights and it paid Paramount nothing and rejected Paramount's officer to co-produce/finance the movie. And, I assume, kicked sand in Paramount's eye and stuck its tongue out.
This is what that all amounts to: FOX threw away its Buzz Lightyear for some shinier new toy (perhaps it was "Meet Dave," that paragon of fine filmmaking they released this summer.) Universal picked up Buzz, got tired of "To Infinity, And Beyond!" and gave it to its retarded cousin, Paramount. Paramount picked its nose until it bled, and its Daddy showed up to smack some damn sense into it, and in the process, Warners took Buzz Lightyear and ran in the other direction (probably toward the monkey bars.) At which point, after everyone else on the playground noticed how cool Warner Brother's new toy was, FOX demanded its Buzz Lightyear back.
If I were their mothers, the following would happen:
Warner Brothers would reimburse FOX what FOX spent to acquire the rights and develop the film. Then the WB gets to release Watchmen itself, profit off the DVDs, and make as many sequels (ha! This is really what this whole fight is about -- sequels to a movie that has no possible sequel) as it wants.
FOX gets to release the 1960's Batman series on DVD and not pay Warner Brothers a dime. Then it gets to sue Gordon for his failure to properly secure rights with Warner Brothers before they went and shot the movie.
Brad Grey gets to kick Barry Meyer and Peter Chernin in the shins.