WB asks federal judge to speed up decision

Warner Bros. has asked a federal judge to speed up his decision on whether to grant Fox’s request to block the release of “Watchmen” on March 6.

Warner made the request Tuesday in a filing with U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess, who found last month that Fox controlled distribution rights to “Watchmen.”

Warner and Fox had agreed on Monday to forego a jury trial and instead allow Feess to make a ruling on Jan. 20 on Fox’s demand. Warner then asked the judge the next day to begin the hearing next Monday — eight days earlier — because of the time pressures of marketing “Watchmen.”

The studio also disclosed in filings that its total investment in the action pic with marketing and promotion will be over $150 million.

“Because the release date for ‘Watchmen’ is less than two months away and Warner Bros. must imminently commit to spending tens of millions of dollars on its marketing and promotional campaign for the picture, time is of the essence,” Warner said.

Feess is expected to make a ruling Friday on Warner’s request for the expedited hearing.

Fox filed the suit in February, contending it retains distribution rights to the graphic novel penned by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons.

The suit asserts that producer Lawrence Gordon’s option to acquire Fox’s remaining interest in “Watchmen” was never exercised, thereby leaving Fox with its rights under a 1994 turnaround agreement. Warner Bros. has denied Fox’s assertions and contends Fox doesn’t hold the copyright.

Fox originally acquired the rights to “Watchmen” in the late 1980s and spent more than $1 million developing the project, which later went to Universal and then Paramount before landing at Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures.

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