With title victory, MGM and UA could protest content

Call it “The Movie Formerly Known As Goldmember”

The Motion Picture Assn. of America on Thursday denied New Line’s appeal of an earlier decision blocking use of the title “Austin Powers in Goldmember” for the third installment of the Austin Powers franchise.

New Line then rejected an 11th-hour deal from MGM and United Artists, the studios which filed to block the title spoof on their James Bond franchise. Sources close to the situation said MGM and UA would have softened their stance on the title if New Line had agreed to move the upcoming Denzel Washington picture “John Q” off its Feb. 15 release date, leaving the weekend virtually clear for MGM’s Bruce Willis starrer “Hart’s War.” New Line declined.

However, the Lion hints that it may still lie in wait to pounce on the International Man of Mystery.

A statement released by an MGM spokesman said, “We are gratified that the title issue has been resolved in our favor and we intend to vigorously protect our other intellectual property rights in this matter.”

MGM and UA have always had issues with Mr. Powers, a snaggletoothed British spy whose pics tweak UA’s venerable James Bond franchise. In 1999, MGM and UA petitioned the MPAA over the use of “The Spy Who Shagged Me,” but New Line responded in accordance with MPAA guidelines and won the right to use the title.

Now that the MPAA has ruled against New Line, MGM and UA could view the victory as an opportunity to seek out and protest any content they find objectionable in the film itself.

The “Goldmember” drama began Jan. 24 after the MPAA ruled the title “inadmissible.” That edict came when New Line failed to follow proper procedures after MGM and UA petitioned the MPAA to ban the title, which parodies that of the 1964 Bond film “Goldfinger.”

No practical recourse

While New Line still has legal recourse over “Goldmember,” it is hardly practical: Given the time required to move through the court system, a victory would be Pyrrhic.

“The appeal process has come to a close, and though New Line is disappointed by the MPAA’s decision, we will abide by it,” New Line said in a statement. “We remain committed to our filmmaker’s vision and are moving forward.”

It’s unknown what MGM and UA’s hardline stance may do to their ability to woo the creator and star of “Austin Powers,” Mike Myers, to don the overcoat of Chief Inspector Clouseau. UA has long hoped to revive its Pink Panther franchise, with Myers filling Peter Sellers’ gumshoes.

The third installment in the Austin Powers franchise is slated for release July 26. It features Myers in four roles, including that of the villain Goldmember.

(Claude Brodesser contributed to this report.)

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