Studio sues Sony, Revolution

Fox is looking to put the kibosh on Sony/Revolution’s “Zoom,” or at least move its release date.

Studio and partner Marvel Enterprises have filed suit against Sony Pictures Entertainment and Revolution Studios, alleging that their upcoming pic is confusingly similar to “X-Men.”

Complaint comes before “Zoom,” a comedy starring Tim Allen has even started production.

But based on a recent version of the script, Fox and Marvel allege the pic rips off “X-Men” with elements including teenage mutant super-heroes, an underground training facility, and a sinister government program.

Perhaps most disturbing to Fox, though, is Sony/Revolution’s decision to release “Zoom” next May 12, just two weeks before “X3″ comes out. Sony/Revolution were previously planning to release “Zoom” August 2006, but moved the date to May a week after Fox announced its bow date for “X3.”

In an unusual move for a copyright infringement suit, Fox and Marvel are making the release date a key part of the complaint.

” ‘Zoom’s’ release in May 2006 immediately before the release of ‘X3′ (or any release in proximity to the release of ‘X3′) is an unfair attempt by Sony and Revolution to manipulate the market and trade off the time, energy, resources and effort Marvel have invested in ‘X-Men,’ ” the lawsuit states.

In other words, Fox is planning a huge marketing campaign for “X3″ and doesn’t want Sony and Revolution sharing in the results.

“X-Men” and “X2″ made a combined $700 million in worldwide B.O. for Fox. Studio is plowing major coin into a third pic with Brett Ratner recently signed to direct.

According to the complaint, Fox EVP legal affairs Robert Cohen wrote to Revolution last August warning it to be careful not to infringe on the “X-Men” copyright.

Revolution apparently never responded to the letter, though, and there seems to have been no communication between the two sides until May 25, when Fox and Marvel sent defendants a letter detailing specific similarities between the two pics based on a recent script draft.

Lawsuit notes that the graphic novel upon which the film is based — “Zoom’s Academy for the Super Gifted,” by Jason Lethcoe — was not strikingly similar to “X-Men,” but claims that the script has become a near-copy.

Revolution apparently made minor changes in the script to address plaintiffs’ concerns, though its attorney said in a letter quoted in the suit that Fox and Marvel’s complaints are an attempt “to monopolize … broad general concepts that have been widely and repeatedly used by others.”

But Fox and Marvel found the changes insufficient and decided to go ahead with the suit.

Legal fights between Hollywood studios are unusual, though lawsuits involving Marvel are not.

The comic book publisher has been embroiled in numerous court battles over its properties, including lawsuits involving both Fox and Sony (over “X-Men” and “Spider-Man,” respectively) that were later settled.

Neither Sony nor Revolution, which are being repped by attorney Bert Fields, would comment on the litigation, which was filed late on Monday.

Lawsuit seeks an injunction barring further work on “Zoom” and monetary relief, though Fox and Marvel would likely be satisfied with a new release date and moderate script changes.

“Zoom” stars Tim Allen as Jack, formerly Captain Zoom, an out-of-shape former superhero who has lost his powers and is reluctantly called back into action to turn a ragtag group of kids into a new generation of superheroes to save the world from destruction.

Courteney Cox plays Marsha, a scientist with the secret agency that runs the superhero program. Chevy Chase plays the head of the agency.

Film was scripted by Adam Rifkin, David Berenbaum, Allen and Matt Carroll.

Suzanne and Jennifer Todd are producing. Neil Machlis, Trevor Engelson and Nick Osborne are exec producing.

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