U's 200-pound gorilla faces restored 'Kong'

By the time Universal releases Peter Jackson‘s vision of “King Kong” on Dec. 14, the first DVD edition of the original 1933 pic is expected to be on store shelves.

Except it won’t have a Universal logo on it.

Warner Bros. has long been working on restoring the pic for DVD release. Although it hasn’t announced when the DVD will go on sale, it is expected to be near Jackson’s “Kong.”

In the runup to the release of its monster-mash “Van Helsing” last summer, U tried a similar gambit, releasing “Legacy Collection” editions of the classic Frankenstein, Wolf Man, and Dracula pics that had inspired helmer Stephen Sommers.

So how did the classic “Kong” end up with Warners and Jackson’s “Kong” with U?

Rights to the 1933 film seem to have passed through nearly every studio’s hands over the years.

The original “Kong” was produced by RKO Radio Pictures. But after RKO exited the studio biz in 1957 and sold its lot to Desilu, most of its library, including “Kong,” was bought by United Artists, which was in turn acquired by MGM.

Turner Broadcasting bought MGM’s library in 1986, but 10 years later it merged with Time Warner, delivering rights to the original “Kong” to Warner Bros.

(In another twist, the 1976 remake of “Kong” was produced by Paramount, which had acquired the old RKO lot when it bought Desilu.)

Universal didn’t have to license the character from Warners first because the Jackson pic is not, it says, a remake. And besides, the actual “Kong” character (though obviously not the original film) is now in the public domain.

So, if you think you can do a better job than Peter Jackson armed with a $150 million budget, feel free to give it a whirl.

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