Watchmen Caught In Legal Confusion

First ruling goes against Warners

Uh-oh. The release date for Watchmen is up in the air after the first judgment in the legal tussle for distribution rights between Fox and Warners went against the latter.

The issue is whether 20th Century Fox had (essentially) first right of refusal when Paramount put the film in turnaround a couple of years ago, rather than Warners, who have gone on to make the film. The preliminary ruling on Christmas Eve by a Los Angeles federal judge is that Fox has - at least - a copyright interest giving them the right to distribute the film, and suggested that the parties might want to start settling or appealing even before the main trial begins on January 20.

What does any of this mean or matter? Well, if the question can't be settled, the film's release could be delayed in the US (where Warners is currently to distribute), and that could have a knock-on effect to the release date for the rest of the world (where Paramount is the distributor). The worst case scenario would see the film mothballed while the dispute rolls on, but with the excitement at fever pitch and the fans baying for release, it's in neither studio's interest to shelve it indefinitely. Still, there will be tense moments and a whole lot of negotiation between the studios between now and the planned March 6 release date, so watch this space for more as we get it.