By Borys Kit
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Warner Bros.' message to Fox regarding "Watchmen" copyright infringement can be summed up this way: Bring it on.
In a defiant statement issued Monday, Warners said it was prepared to go to trial or to appeal last week's U.S. District Court ruling that the studio had infringed on Fox's copyright in making the adaptation of the Alan Moore superhero graphic novel.
"We respectfully but vigorously disagree with the court's ruling and are exploring all of our appellate options," the studio said. "We continue to believe that Fox's claims have no merit and that we will ultimately prevail, whether at trial or in the Court of Appeals."
Fox, meanwhile, is looking for an injunction against the March 6, 2009, release of the movie.
"Watchmen," directed by Zack Snyder ("300"), is one of Warners' tentpoles for next year, with a budget well north of $120 million. While it is considered a seminal piece of literature with an appeal beyond the geek community, Warners has been carefully implementing a publicity campaign to generate word-of-mouth and awareness of the movie.
Both sides met Monday morning at the Los Angeles federal court, where Judge Gary Feess said he stands by his Christmas Eve ruling and plans to hold a trial January 20 to decide remaining issues such as damages, how far Fox's rights extend, and if to actually block the release of the movie.
Monday's events seem to be a speed bump to a costly settlement, with the hard-line postures likely a strategic move for both sides more than anything else. Fox, which finally snapped a long box office losing streak last weekend with "Marley & Me," gains most with a settlement, not a blocked release; the studio is already taking a beating in the geek blogosphere for messing with a fan-favorite property. Warners, meanwhile, could be on the hook for millions for developing and then filming a movie in which the film's producer, Larry Gordon, didn't pay Fox "turnaround" fees after allegedly reacquiring rights to the property.
"We are gratified by the recognition of our rights in the Judge's order, which speaks for itself," Fox said in a statement.
This kind of behavior is so lame. If you don't know about the Watchmen, I would recommend that you go out and buy the graphic novel and read it. It is heralded as the best graphic novel ever, as well as being one of the best modern novels ever, period. If you are too lazy for that check out the trailer below. Whatevs, same difference, right?