Just when we'd gotten used to the idea that Judge Gary Feess could rule as early as January 20th on Fox's delaying Watchmen's release at the end of this month, a new timeline appears.
Literally a day after both Fox and Warner Bros. had apparently agreed to forego a trial and allow Judge Feess to rule on whether or not Fox had the right to delay or block Warners' movie from being released, Warners filed papers that, essentially, asked if he could do it eight days earlier, because they'd really like to know whether or not they should spend all that money on advertising or not. I'm not joking; Variety quotes Warners as explaining,
Because the release date for 'Watchmen' is less than two months away and Warner Bros. must imminently commit to spending tens of millions of dollars on its marketing and promotional campaign for the picture, time is of the essence.
According to court papers, Warners' investment in this movie will amount to somewhere in the region of $150,000,000... making it slightly more understandable that they'd like to see an answer sooner rather than later. Feess is expected to announce today whether or not he'll allow Warners' request, and issue a ruling earlier than January 20th.
Meanwhile, Watchmen producer Lloyd Levin wrote an "open letter" about the situation, posted at filmsite HitFix.com, in which he recounted the experience of pitching the Watchmen film at both Fox and Warners.:
The response we got from Fox was a flat "pass." That's it. An internal Fox email documents that executives there felt the script was one of the most unintelligible pieces of shit they had read in years. Conversely, Warner Brothers called us after having read the script and said they were interested in the movie - yes, they were unsure of the screenplay, and had many questions, but wanted to set a meeting to discuss the project, which they promptly did. Did anyone at Fox ask to meet on the movie? No. Did anyone at Fox express any interest in the movie? No. Express even the slightest interest in the movie? Or the graphic novel? No.
... The Watchmen script was way above the norm in length, near 150 pages, meaning the film could clock in at close to 3 hours, the movie would not only be R rated but a hard R - for graphic violence and explicit sex - would feature no stars, and had a budget north of $100M. We also asked Warner Brothers to support an additional 1 to 1.5 hours of content incurring additional cost that would tie in with the movie but only be featured in DVD iterations of the film. Warners supported the whole package and I cannot begin to emphasize how ballsy and unprecedented a move this was on the part of a major Hollywood studio. Unheard of. And would another studio in Hollywood, let alone a studio that didn't show one shred of interest in the movie, not one, have taken such a risk? Would they ever have made such a commitment, a commitment to a film that defied all conventional wisdom?
Only the executives at Fox can answer that question. But if they were to be honest, their answer would have to be "No."
Shouldn't Warner Brothers be entitled to the spoils - if any — of the risk they took in supporting and making Watchmen?
Clock is ticking on 'Watchmen' case [Variety]