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Hollywood Without a Superman Movie? Surely Not.

Superman captured

So the Superman suit appears to be done–or at least this phase of it–and Warner Brothers/DC won. The heirs of Jerome Siegel will only be able to get profits from DC Comics on Superman Returns rather than WB as well. That means they get a piece of the $13.6M DC got off the film. Apparently the suit addressed whether or not the deal between the two was a “sweetheart deal” (i.e. below fair market value). They looked at similar deals for spandex to big screen bits when determining the value was fair. I was wondering how you figure out a “sweetheart deal” when, you know, WB owns DC anyway–and apparently I was right to wonder. December 1st is when the trial will occur to determine “the allocation of profits to their heirs.” Here’s an interesting bit as well:

Warner Bros. chairman Alan Horn had testified that he hopes to make another “Superman” movie but added that the property wasn’t under development at the studio, that no script had been written and that the earliest another “Superman” pic could be released would be in 2012.

And here, where the attorney Marc Toberoff says:

This trial was only an interim step in the multifaceted accounting case which remains, in that it only concerned the secondary issue of whether DC Comics, or DC Comics and Warner Bros., would have to account to the Siegels. To put this in further perspective, the entire accounting action pales in comparison to the fact that in 2013, the Siegels, along with the estate of Joe Shuster, will own the entire original copyright to Superman, and neither DC Comics nor Warner Bros. will be able to exploit any new Superman works without a license from the Siegels and Shusters. The Court pointedly ruled that if Warner Bros. does not start production on another Superman film by 2011, the Siegels will be able to sue to recover their damages. The Siegels look forward to the remainder of the case, which will determine how much defendants owe them for their exploitations of Superman.

So what does all this mean? Normally, people will put films–especially for huge properties–into production to avoid rights reverting or, you know, deadlines that entail lawsuits and stuff. So normally I’d say you could expect an announcement towards the end of the year that a new Supes film would be coming. But the fact that Horn said there wasn’t one “under development at the studio”? I find that desperately hard to believe. Does WB know how to exist without a Superman film in development? I understood that before Superman Returns was released, 6% of the Hollywood GNP was due to Superman stuff in development.

And not to split hairs, but perhaps Horn chose his words carefully and they farmed it out for development outside WB? So it’s not happening at the studio? Is that even possible/legal? Perhaps they’re looking at doing a Superboy movie a la Smallville and not Superman per se? Because last time I checked the Superboy character was still 100% owned by DC/WB? (That might have changed since I started typing up this post, so don’t hold me to it.)

And I’m sorry, I just have trouble believing that nobody over there has even written a script for a new Superman film. Especially since, despite all the hullabaloo, money was made off the film. Would Tuffley or some other such expert like to step in and help me with this? Or a legal expert or somebody?

That being said, I wonder out loud the answer to this question: what has been the most screwed up copyright/ownership dispute in history? This is probably not it, but I’m sure it places.

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