by Jeff Cucinell
Warner Brothers Logo, Image courtesy of Warner Brothers
- War With Digital Sharing
- The Good and the Bad in Distribution
- Big Blockbuster Releases
- Movies on Deck
- Warner Brothers Kryptonite: Latest News
1. War with Digital Sharing
2012 has already seen its fair share of copyright infringement cases. Copyrights and online piracy have been the major issue in the entertainment industry, from the outcry against SOPA, to the takedown of Megaupload. Warner Brothers Pictures has been in a battle of its own against a website called Hotfile. As a file locker site, Hotfile.com is one of the world’s most popular websites due to its easy one click file sharing.
Last year, the MPAA filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the website, claiming Hotfile to be very similar to Megaupload in violating copyright agreements(1). But Hotfile fired back earlier this year by filing a law suit against Warner Bros. for distributing incorrect takedown statements. The studio uses anti-piracy technology that sends out notices to websites that do not follow intellectual property policy. Hotfile states that Warner Bros. Pictures should be held accountable for sending out takedowns without justification. The website says that the studio has sent out close to 800 wrongful takedown messages, just a small percentage of what the studio sends out each day(1).
The battle has been heating up in court as Warner argues that the lawsuit filed by Hotfile should be dismissed on several grounds. One of these grounds is the lack of evidence the website can present, showing that Warner Brothers had subjective knowledge that the notices had errors. The studio has acknowledged that the system has made some mistakes in sending out incorrect takedowns, but not enough to cause damage to Hotfile.com(2).
Both lawsuits are still being deliberated.
2. The Good and the Bad in Distribution
The early parts of 2012 have also provided both successes and struggles for Warner Brothers Pictures’ distribution channels.
As for the good news, Warner Bros. is staying up-to date on the digital conversion platform, by joining 4 other major studios and teaming up with Walmart’s new “disc-to-digital” service. Costumers can convert SD, HD or Blu-ray discs to digital files, across devices via Walmart’s streaming service called Vudu. The fee for the conversion is $2 and upgrading discs to HD will cost $5(3).
An ad for Walmart's new disc to digital service. Image courtesy of Walmart
The bad news for the Warner Bros. distribution department is that it finds itself tied up in a legal battle with the German production company MHF. The company states that Warner Bros. distributed the movies The Whole Ten Yards, The In-Laws and Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever without a proper license(4). The deal with Warner Bros. stems from the bankruptcy of Franchise Pictures, the former distribution channel that the movies were originally given too. When Franchise went under in 2004, Warner Brothers took the rights to distribution for the movies.
The studio is alleged to have copyright infringed and breached the contract. The studio responded with a statement.
“MHF’s lawsuit comes years too late. At its core, the lawsuit complains about a transfer of rights in three motion pictures that occurred in 2006 during the Franchise Pictures bankruptcy. MHF had notice of that transfer at the time, and several opportunities to object, but failed to do so and the bankruptcy court approved the transfer,”(4).
The case is still being deliberated.
3. Big Blockbuster Releases
Some big time releases have also brought in great revenue for the studio early in 2012.
“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” which was released on December 16th, 2011, has brought in $529 million in the global box office as of, March 20th. An estimated $186.7 million of that revenue has been said to be on the domestic side and $342.3 million internationally(5). The film opened at number 1 and spent 6 weeks in the top 10 in the U.S box office. The film also brought a lot of excitement to the Warner Brothers lot and the studio is ecstatic with the outcome:
The movie poster for Sherlock Holmes. Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.
“The movie is a great adventure–complete with action, humor and great characters. Congratulations to the filmmakers and cast, who were truly our partners in bringing Sherlock Holmes back to an enthusiastic worldwide audience.” – Sue Kroll, Warner Brothers President, Worldwide Marketing (5).
Also, Warner Bros. released Project X on March 2 which received immediate success in the box office. According to Box Office Mojo, as of April 26th the movie has brought in over $54 million nationally and over $87 million worldwide(6). Project X, a film about a group of unpopular high school students who want to become known for throwing the biggest party ever, is causing problems in the state of California. Police have been seeing many copycat cases as teens have been occupying vacant million dollar homes and throwing uncontrolled parties that mimic the movie(7).
4. Movies on Deck
Warner Bros. has also made some exciting announcements about films that will premiere in 2013.
Legendary Pictures and Warner have agreed that the third installment of the Hangover franchise will hit theaters May 24th, 2013. The studios have announced that the 3 main characters played by Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis will be returning in the movie. The first and second parts of the series grossed $467.5 million and $581.5 million worldwide respectively(8). The Hollywood Reporter has also reported that the 3rd movie is likely to take place in Los Angeles, and will break the formula that was created in the first two films.
The stars of The Hangover 3. From left to right: Helms, Cooper and Galifanakis are all getting paid at least 15 million dollars for their parts. Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Along with the Hangover, Warner Bros. has also announced that it is joining forces with famed director Brian Helgeland for the movie 42, in honor of the late great, Jackie Robinson. The movie will be released on April 12th, 2013, just in time for the 66th anniversary of Jackie Robinson day(9). Chadwick Boseman, who played Floyd Little in the movie The Express, has been signed to play Robinson and Harrison Ford will play the man who signed Robinson, Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey. Helgeland, director of LA Confidential, wrote the original screenplay and has assembled a team of academy award winners around him to produce the film(9). The location for production is Chattanooga, Tennessee, where Engel Stadium will double as Ebbets field, the home of the former Brooklyn Dodgers.
5. Warner Brothers Kryptonite: Latest News
The studio finds itself in a messy legal battle with Superman creator Jerry Siegel’s estate, as the two parties are fighting for the rights of the Superman franchise. The battle has been ongoing since 2008 but just on March 23rd, the studio filed a 117 page court brief arguing why they should hold the exclusive rights to the superhero(10).
The original cover of Action Comics' Superman. Now the creator and Warner Brothers are in a legal battle over copyrights. Image courtesy of Action Comics.
The case, which is being heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, is regarding a copyright termination notice that was deemed partially valid in a 2008 hearing in California. The notice said that the Siegel estate had the rights to the first edition of comics that originally told Superman’s story(10). The issue of the notice means that the Siegel estate owns the copyrights to the costume, the name Clark Kent and the original story. Since the works that followed were deemed “works for hire,” Warner Bros. holds the rights to Lex Luther and Kryptonite. The case will determine how far the studio can go in creating new Superman films and related works(10).
(1) How Warner Bros. Is Fighting Charges It Abuses the Copyright Takedown Process http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/warner-brothers-hotfile-mpaa-lawsuit-295666
(2) Hotfile, Warner Bros. Copyright Fight Heats Up http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/169697/hotfile-warner-bros-copyright-fight-heats-up.html
(3) Walmart unveils ‘disc-to-digital’: Five studios on board for in-store DVD conversion http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/sns-201203131442reedbusivarietynvr1118051401mar13,0,2716664.story
(4) Warner Bros. Sued for Allegedly Distributing Movies Without License http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/warner-bros-sued-distributing-movies-whole-ten-yards-303299
(5) “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” Bests Its Predecessor, Nabbing Global Tally of $529 Million and Counting http://www.marketwatch.com/story/sherlock-holmes-a-game-of-shadows-bests-its-predecessor-nabbing-global-tally-of-529-million-and-counting-2012-03-20
(6) Project X http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=projectx2011.htm
(7) Project X’ Parties Busted in California Mansions http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/04/project-x-parties-busted-in-california-mansions/
(8) Todd Phillips Says Third ‘Hangover’ Will Be the Last http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/todd-phillips-hangover-3-bradley-cooper-303424
(9) Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures Put 42 On Deck For April 12, 2013; Stars Harrison Ford http://wearemoviegeeks.com/2012/04/warner-bros-pictures-and-legendary-pictures-put-42-on-deck-for-april-12-2013-stars-harrison-ford/
(10) Superman’s WB Future at Stake as Appeals Court Battle Begins http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/superman-warner-bros-future-court-battle-304263