20th Century Fox is suing Warner Bros. over the rights to produce and distribute a film based on the DC Comics property Watchmen. Zack Snyder is currently shooting the Watchmen film for Warners in Vancouver with a March 6th 2009 release date planned, but Fox's suit seeks an injunction to stop production until the rights dispute is cleared up.
According to Fox the studio acquired all movie rights to the Watchmen property between 1986 and 1990. Though it did assign some rights to producer Lawrence Gordon's Largo International, Fox claims that it kept the right to distribute any Watchmen movie. When Largo folded, the agreement between Fox and Gordon was amended with a number of conditions, but according to Fox, Gordon was supposed to pay the studio a buy-out fee if he decided to make the film elsewhere -- and Fox claims that it has never received any such fee.
Typically these sorts of rights disputes between studios are settled before any suits are filed and usually before a film goes into production (remember how rights disputes held up the production of decent Spider-Man movie for years), but perhaps Fox feels that it has Warners over a barrel with the fate of a potentially lucrative superhero film at stake. For fans who have been waiting for over 20 years for a Watchmen film, the prospect of seeing the project in jeopardy after it was so close to realization must be agonizing. For author Alan Moore, who never wanted a movie to be made from Watchmen anyway, the legal duel between competing monolithic media conglomerates must be a delicious irony.