Movie Studios Losing Rights

With all the remakes, reboots, reimaginings and whatnot coming to theaters all the time, you might be excited to hear that some movies studios are in danger of losing the rights to some of their most valuable franchises.

The rights to Terminator, Die Hard, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Predator, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Beetlejuice are all in danger of being snapped back by the original creators or those in charge of their estate. But why now? What has all these properties in line to possibly being snatched back?

The Hollywood Reporter has news on all these titles potentially leaving the studios that turned them into movies. This is all happening now (or in the near future in some cases) because of a law Congress amended in the late 1970s that allows authors to get the rights back to their work from studios 35 years after publication. That means the rights to some movies from 1984, such as The Terminator and Nightmare on Elm Street, could be snatched back by the original filmmakers.

In fact, The Terminator writer Gale Anne Hurd has already moved to to terminate (ha!) a copyright grant made 35 years ago. The rights to Terminator are currently situated at David Ellison’s Skydance Media. They picked them up from his sister Megan Ellison back in 2011 in auction for $20 million. But if this termination goes through, then Skydance may lose the right to make Terminator movies starting in November 2020. That could be a problem if they want to make any sequels they might have planned.

The other aforementioned franchises that could change hands still have a few years to possibly get remakes or sequels off the ground. But Gary K. Wolf definitely wants to get the rights back to the book that inspired Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and the same can be said for Roderick Thorp, the author of Nothing Lasts Forever, the book on which Die Hard is based. And apparently authors like Stephen King and David Mamet are anxious to get the rights back to some of their stories that were turned into movies as well. Meanwhile, in the case of Beetlejuice, it’s the heirs of screenwriter Michael McDowell who want to get the rights to the script back from Warner Bros. Pictures.

Other original scripts in the line of fire include Predator, which could create some problems for an upcoming video game title based on the property. A similar issue recently arose with a Friday the 13th video game not being allowed to create downloadable content for the title because the rights to certain elements of the franchise didn’t belong to the right people. The Predator video game could find itself in the same boat, and funnily enough, it’s from the same creators as the Friday the 13th game.

But all of these franchises do have some time to get their affairs in order and even hold on to the rights. Entertainment attorney Larry Zerner told THR, “Since the author has to give at least two years notice of the termination, that gives the studios two years notice that it’s ‘use it or lose it.” That means once they get a termination notice, they have two years to make a project based on a given property or it reverts back to the creator.

Basically, all this means is that most studios will probably have to sit down to strike a new deal for rights. That means the creator gets paid more money, and everyone is happy. Because as we all know, money buys happiness. But there’s also a chance that the studio could let a property go and the creator could sell it to another studio.

For now, these film franchises are safe, but don’t be surprised if you start hearing about an influx of new deals being struck all over Hollywood for some of the most lucrative and beloved films of the 1980s. And we’ll get to do it all over again as the years go on.

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