James Cameron has won a string of Avatar legal battles recently but it looks like The Trademark Trial and Appeals Board isn’t going to be one of them. Already turned down once, 20th Century Fox was again refused its request to register the “Pandorapedia” name as a trademark on a planned Avatar-related clothing line of tagged T-shirts, PJs and more. The TTAB denied the studio’s appeal on the trademark earlier this month, saying it was too close to the trademark already used by Pandora Sportswear Corp. “We find that the marks PANDORA and PANDORAPEDIA are similar and thus…favors a finding of likelihood of confusion,” said the TTAB in its 8-page opinion (read it here). The opinion was sent out to Fox on November 8.
That’s the second Avatar legal loss in a row for Eric Ryder and another win for James Cameron. Three weeks after LA Superior Court Judge Susan Bryant-Deason granted the director’s motion for summary judgment, Ryder’s efforts to have her dismissed from the case have now also failed. Ryder wanted the judge pulled from the case because her husband is a line producer who has worked on Fox projects such as We Bought A Zoo. The plaintiff claimed in a 2011 complaint that Cameron ripped off the 2009 blockbuster from an environmental themed story of his entitled K.R.Z. 2068. Ryder said that execs at Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment had read the story back in the ’90s. Having taken a hit in early October in the case, two weeks ago Ryder’s lawyers alleged a lack of impartiality on the part of Bryant-Deason. Funny thing is Fox aren’t even a defendant in the suit, only Cameron and Lightstorm are. On October 23, the court gave tossed Ryder’s latest maneuver too. “A party simply can’t wait to see what happens in a case, before deciding to investigate or assert known facts as a basic for disqualification for cause. By not filing a timely motion to disqualify, objections to the assigned judge are waived,” wrote Bryant-Deason herself in the 11-page order (read it here). Beside Fox not being …
EXCLUSIVE: Even though Stephen Lang‘s Col. Miles Quaritch character seemed to have run his course in 20th Century Fox’s Avatar, director James Cameron has revealed that Lang is not only returning for the sequel, he’s going to be part of the next three films. It sounds like he’s the closest thing to a mix between Star Wars‘ Darth Vader and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator character. “Steven was so memorable in the first film, we’re privileged to have him back,” Cameron said. “I’m not going to say exactly how we’re bringing him back, but it’s a science fiction story, after all. His character will evolve into really unexpected places across the arc of our new three-film saga. I really look forward to working with such a gifted actor, who’s also become a good friend.”
Cameron has been working out brainy plot details throughout his career — how many times has the time travel concept from the original Terminator film been swiped over the years — so I’ll bet he’s come up with something thrilling. As for Lang, he’s been turning in memorable performances since going back to the Michael Mann TV series Crime Story and in character roles in films like White Irish Drinkers. Good on Lang, who’s repped by Innovative.
It’s been two years since Disney announced its deal to add Avatar-licensed attractions to its parks, but over the weekend at D23 in Tokyo the company finally jumpstarted the countdown clock to 2017. Here’s a peek at Disney’s plans to bring James Cameron‘s Pandora to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom by 2017 complete with a bioluminescent jungle cruise, floating mountains, a new nighttime spectacular, and a flying Banshee simulator attraction:
Score another victory for James Cameron in his slew of Avatar lawsuits. The writer-director of the 2009 blockbuster yesterday prevailed in a suit brought against him by Eric Ryder, who claimed that Cameron had used his ideas in the film. LA Superior Court Judge Susan Bryant-Deason granted Cameron’s motion for summary judgment, thereby dismissing Ryder’s suit in its entirety. The judge ruled that it was undisputed that Avatar was independently created by Cameron. “Sadly, it seems that whenever a successful motion picture is produced, there are people who try to ‘get rich quick’ by claiming their ideas were used”, Cameron said in a statement today released by Fox. “Several such claims have been asserted in connection with Avatar. I am grateful that our courts have consistently found these claims to be meritless.” In February, Cameron won a case against Gerald Morawski, who accused Cameron of ripping off his ideas for the pic. Among the lawsuits pending though is Bryant Moore’s $2.5 billion lawsuit against Cameron and Fox claiming that Avatar was stolen from his scripts. A federal judge in March granted a motion to dismiss the breach of implied contract claim in Moore’s 2011 suit but he did not dismiss Moore’s copyright claims. That trial date is pending.
They won’t be in 3-D but you can hold them in your hand in either tablet or hardcover. Fox and James Cameron said today that Jumper author Steven Charles Gould has been brought on board to pen four Avatar novels based on and expanding on the blockbuster 2009 movie and its three upcoming sequels. The sequels are expected in December 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Read the release here:
LOS ANGELES, August 22, 2013: Filmmaker James Cameron has tapped noted science fiction author Steven Charles Gould (Jumper) to write four stand-alone novels based upon – and expanding — Cameron’s history-making 2009 film Avatar, and Cameron’s stories for his three upcoming Avatar sequels.
Cameron commented, “Steven Gould is one of the shining lights in contemporary science fiction, and I’ve long admired the worlds and characters he’s created in his books and stories. We’re very fortunate to have Steven bring his formidable talents to the Avatar universe. He is already working closely with me and the screenwriters to flesh out the expanding world of Avatar.”
While Gould is best known for his 1992 novel Jumper, which Twentieth Century Fox and New Regency turned into a motion picture in 2008, he has been acclaimed for his short fiction, including his
Deadline last Thursday revealed Fox’s plans to prepare three Avatar sequels that can be shot in succession, and here’s what Fox Filmed Entertainment chief Jim Gianopulos just told analysts: “Of course, Jim Cameron is finalizing the scripts– yes, that was plural– for the continuation of the saga that began with the highest grossing film in history– Avatar. The growing breadth and scale of Jim’s magnificent fantasy world will come to life through three films, scheduled for release in December 2016, December 2017, and December 2018. We’re confident these major cinematic events will amaze and enthrall audiences around the world.” The comments came in a presentation where the exec argued that Fox will continue to lead the industry in profitability due to its focus on franchises and global scale.
EXCLUSIVE: James Cameron and 20th Century Fox have upped the number of Avatar sequels they’ll make from two to three, and they’ve set three high-level screenwriters (one is a team) to get the movies in shape to be shot simultaneously. That is easily a recipe for the most expensive set of pictures ever made, and an ambitious production plan not seen since New Line and Peter Jackson made three The Lord Of The Rings films back to back. Back then, Jackson was coming off The Frighteners. Fox at least has the confidence of knowing Cameron’s last two films are the biggest-grossing pictures in movie history, with Avatar at the top by a wide margin. It’s still a gutsy play; it is not unimaginable that three Avatar installments could cost close to $1 billion. The original grossed $2.8 billion.
Cameron has set War Of The Worlds scribe Josh Friedman to write one film; Rise Of Planet Of The Apes‘ Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver to write another; with the third to be written by Shane Salerno, who wrote and directed the upcoming documentary Salinger and who previously worked with Cameron on a remake of Fantastic Voyage at Fox. The writers will collaborate with Cameron separately and co-write three separate movies with him.
The three pictures will be filmed simultaneously with production beginning next year. The release of the first sequel will be in December 2016, with the second to follow in December 2017, and the third a year later. Avatar 2, 3, and 4 will be produced by Cameron and Jon Landau through their Lightstorm Entertainment banner. Lightstorm will work once again with Joe Letteri and his team at WETA Digital on the three films.
The choice of writers came after Cameron and Landau spent weeks meeting with A-list screenwriters vying for the job. They’ve been working with Cameron from his Manhattan Beach studio.
The highest-grossing movie of all time is again the subject of a copyright legal battle. Artist William Roger Dean filed a complaint against James Cameron and 20th Century Fox on Thursday seeking more than $50 million in damages over Avatar. Unlike past Avatar plaintiffs, Dean has an established pedigree. He is a well known artist who has created album covers for such big-selling bands as Yes and Asia and exhibited his fantasy landscapes and other work around the world. In fact, it is the ubiquity of his work, as well as a movie proposal based on it that he took at the 2005 Cannes Film Fest, that has Dean convinced the look of the 2009 3D sci-fi film were derived from his images. “The similarities of each such work are substantial, continuing, and direct so as to rule out any accidental copying or similarity in scenes common to the genre. The infringing portions of Avatar are so similar to Plaintiffs Works that Defendants and others employed in the preparation of the film must have had access to the Plaintiffs Works,” says his 17-page complaint (read it here) filed June 27 in U.S District Court in New York. The filing cites numerous specific examples from the world of Pandora to the foliage and creatures that populate it where Dean sees his own work. Along with copyright infringement, Dean also is claiming contributory infringement, breach of implied contact, unfair competition and unjust enrichment.
Monsters University’ Global Total $136.5M: #1 N.A. With $82M For Pixar’s 2nd Biggest; ‘World War Z’ Zombies $112M Worldwide: $66M Domestic Is Biggest Opening For Original Live Action Film Since ‘Avatar’; Superman Still #1 Overseas With $400M Cume
SUNDAY 11 AM, 8TH UPDATE: Summer 2013 keeps sizzling with total domestic moviegoing this weekend around $236M, which is a big +43% over last year. That means 2013 is about to close the gap with 2012 helped by 3 films over $40M through Sunday. Here’s how the box office shaped up for this weekend, according to official numbers. Disney/Pixar’s 3D prequel Monsters University (playing in 4,004 theaters) now has a global total of $136.5M for its first 4 days with an international cume of $54.5M and a domestic cume of $82.0M. Internationally, the G-rated toon opened day and date in 35 territories, though only 6 are key markets (Germany, Australia, Russia, Mexico, Spain, Brazil), representing only 48% of potential performance. Pic received a coveted ‘A’ CinemaScore from U.S. audiences to keep the positive social media going. It opened to a gargantuan #1 with $30.5M Friday (including Thursday’s $2.6M late show tally) and $28.8M Saturday. That makes it 2nd highest June animation opening in industry history and Pixar’s second highest opening weekend ever, both behind 2010′s Toy Story 3($110.3M). Yowza! Pic did a solid $2.6M for Thursday’s late shows starting at 8 PM. The prequel maintains Pixar’s perfect record of 14 out of 14 feature releases debuting #1 and also with ‘A-’ to ‘A+’ CinemaScores. Can’t beat that incredible record of success. Disney as usual pulled out all the marketing stops on its network and cable channels as well as theme parks (“Monstrous Summer”) with a huge social media campaign that included the first-ever in-character Tumblr page from a studio. Audience exit polling showed 44% male/56% female, and 60% aged under 25/40% aged 26 and over.
This is the story of how top Monstropolis scarers Mike and Sulley met as rivals and ultimately became best friends, complete with college humor, heartfelt storytelling, and gorgeous visuals. Billy Crystal and John Goodman reprise their roles for director Dan Scanlon (who also is credited for the screenplay along with Daniel Gerson and Robert L. Baird) and producer Kori Rae. Monsters Inc was originally released on November 2, 2001, and opened to a $62.5M weekend. Its all-in domestic was $289.9M and foreign $272.9M for a whopping worldwide cume of $562.8M. Pic wound up nominated for 4 Oscars: Best Animated Feature Film, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, and Best Original Song “If I Didn’t Have You” which won the Academy Award.
Hollywood (and just about everybody else) thought Paramount’s opening of 3D World War Z (3,607 theaters), co-financed with Skydance Productions in association with Hemisphere Media Capital and GK Films, would flop. Instead, the zombie epic epidemic based on Max Brooks’ plague novel stunned with a $112M worldwide total. Its $66M domestic cume is the the biggest opening for an original live action film since Avatar, according to Paramount. And its $46M international cume represents 25 markets which is only about 30% of the foreign marketplace. Top performers were Korea with $10.3M, UK with $7.1M, and Australia $5.5M.
Placing a much bigger-than-expected #2, pic received a ‘B+’ CinemaScore from U.S. audiences which helped word of mouth so it overperformed with $25.0M Friday and $22.6M Saturday. It even grossed a decent $3.6M in 2,600 screens for Thursday 8 PM previews and midnight late shows. That has Paramount’s moguls giddy with relief after all that pre-release bad buzz for producer and star Brad Pitt an his Plan B banner – especially since the studio claims statistics show only one original live action movie a year opens at $50+M. (“Franchises open bigger but originals play to better multiples as people start discovering them,” one exec tells me.) Paramount actually issued a press release to say this weekend’s opening is the biggest of Brad’s career – but I say not when 2005′s Mr And Mrs Smith ($50.3M) debut is adjusted for inflation and the 2D vs 3D ticket price. Pic also benefitted from a spot-on marketing plan savvy enough to book in advance 2 spots promoting Friday’s official debut during Thursday’s big Miami-San Antonio NBA final game. That became the 2nd most watched series end in pro basketball history. (More WWZ below)
Here and overseas, WWZ was in direct competition with Warner Bros’ and Legendary Pictures’ holdover 3D Man Of Steel (4,207 theaters in the widest domestic release) which went into this weekend as still the big #1 leader in the worldwide marketplace. The Superman reboot continues as a super-hit internationally, still #1 internationally even after Superman had to battle the zombies from World War Z through today. MOS broadened out to 52 markets outside of the U.S. and Canada with the Christopher Nolan-Zack Snyder-David S. Goyer-Henry Cavill pic opening in 27 more foreign markets this weekend, including the major countries France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia and China. It’s now amassed an international cume of $188.3M. With $210M from its domestic gross in just 11 days, this third Superman franchise now has a huge worldwide total of $398.3M. That includes nearly $35M on exactly 600 worldwide IMAX screens, including the $3.2M opening weekend in China where IMAX screens represent 12.5% of the country’s movie gross. The pic has played very strong throughout Asia (see Korean poster) and, in China alone, grosses were an outstanding $25.5M from roughly 5,631 screens, taking a lion’s share of the market. Opening day took almost 80% marketshare for Warner Bros’ 2nd highest opening day behind only the Harry Potter finale. “Considering the massive openings last weekend and the hot weather impacting the business in many European markets, the film sustained a reasonable holdover drop of 59%,” Warner Bros said today.
Man Of Steel is currently #3 in North America after doing $12.7M Friday (-71% from a week ago) and +29% for $16.2M Saturday and another huge tally around $41.2M (-65% from a week ago). “We’re in great shape moving into the 4th of July holiday playtime with such an iconic character at the helm,” said Warner Bros Domestic Distribution President Dan Fellman. “Hoping we have a similar result to the strong day we had on Father’s Day.” Overseas, Australia opens on June 27, Brazil July 12, and Japan August 30.
Here’s the Top Ten list based on weekend estimates:
1. Monsters University (Pixar/Disney) NEW [Runs 4,004] G
Friday $30.5M, Saturday $28.8M, Weekend $81.1M
International Cume $54.5M, Worldwide Total $136.5M
2. World War Z (Skydance/Paramount) NEW [Runs 3,607] PG13
Friday $25.0M, Saturday $22.6M, Weekend $66.0M
International Cume $46.0M, Worldwide Total $112.0M
3. Man Of Steel (Legendary/Warner Bros) Week 2 [Runs 4,207] PG13
Friday $12.7M, Saturday $16.2M, Weekend $41.2M (-65%), Cume $209.8M
International Cume $188.3M, Worldwide Total $398.3M
4. This Is The End (Columbia/Sony) Week 2 [Runs 3,055] R
Friday $4.1M, Saturday $4.8M, Weekend $13.0M (-37%), Cume $57.4M
5. Now You See Me (Summit/Lionsgate) Week 4 [Runs 2,823] PG13
Friday $2.4M, Saturday $3.1M, Weekend $7.8M, Cume $94.4M
International Cume $40.0m, Worldwide Total $134.4
6. Fast & Furious 6 (Universal) Week 5 [Runs 2,417] PG13
Friday $1.4M, Saturday $1.9M, Weekend $4.8M, Cume $228.4M
International Cume $437.5M, Worldwide Total $665.9M
7. The Purge (Universal) Week 3 [Runs 2,201] R
Friday $1.1M, Saturday $1.3M, Weekend $3.3M, Cume $59.4M
International Cume $8.6m, Worldwide Total $68.0M
8. The Internship (New Regency/Fox) Week 3 [Runs 1,916] PG13
Friday $1.0M, Saturday $1.3M, Weekend $3.3M, Cume $38.3M
International Cume $9.8M, Worldwide Total $48.1M
9. Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount) Week 6 [Runs 1,565] PG13
Friday $855K, Saturday $1.2M, Weekend $3.0M, Cume $216.6M
International Cume $213.4M, Worldwide Total $430.0M
10. Iron Man 3 (Marvel/Disney) Week 8 [Runs 924] PG13
Friday $661K, Saturday $843K, Weekend $2.1M, Cume $403.1M
International Cume $804.6M, Worldwide Total $1.207B
Frankly, I’ve never found traditional zombies scary – they’re slow, so just outrun them, right? – although World War Z has fast-moving zombies who swarm. But it’s not like lethal lasers are leaping out of their eyes. And these are PG-13 zombies who don’t look much different from George Romero’s 1968 horror classic Night Of The Living Dead or AMC’s Walking Dead. They’re more like the zombies from Dawn Of The Dead and 28 Days Later. These also are effing expensive zombies. Much has been made of the film’s mega-cost: between $220M-$230M brought down to $200M by tax incentives in locations Scotland, Malta, England, and Hungary, or so the studio claims.
Vanity Fair which typically ignores Hollywood moviemaking even did a long feature article about the pic’s budget, plot, and production problems, including director Marc Forster’s revamps and reshoots. There were no less than four writers
EXCLUSIVE: Stephen Lang will play the dual role of a French Colonel in 1860 China and the mysterious chauffeur of an American architect in modern-day Beijing in The Dragon Angel, a family adventure movie. Pitof, who directed Halle Berry’s Catwoman and honed his craft as a visual effects ace on such pics as Alien: Resurrection and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The City Of Lost Children and Delicatessen, is helming this one. Igor Darbo from Popcorn & Friends is producing from a script by Dana Ziyasheva. The film is scheduled to begin shooting at year’s end in China, and Lang’s commitment is set to be announced at the Beijing International Film Festival going on now. He is repped by Innovative Artists.
Producer Jon Landau revealed today at the 2013 NAB Technology Summit on Cinema that Jim Cameron “will do performance capture in water” on the sequels to his 2009 Fox megahit. “We want to take advantage of the technologies brilliant people are putting out to make the next two movies even more emotionally engaging and visually tantalizing, and to really wrap up the story arc of our two main characters”, Landau said in his keynote chat today. The filmmakers are currently exploring technologies to allow for underwater capture of actors’ performances “because we can simulate it visually but can’t simulate it experientially for them”.
James Cameron and Fox today did not get their request for a total dismissal of Bryant Moore’s $2.5 billion lawsuit claiming that Avatar was stolen from his scripts. The defendants did get some legal traction when federal Judge Roger W. Titus granted a motion Monday to dismiss the breach of implied contract claim in Moore’s 2011 suit. However, he did not dismiss Moore’s copyright claims in the hearing in the Southern District of Maryland over the 3D blockbuster. The ruling means the jury trial-requested case will go forward, with discovery to occur next during the next four to six months.
Moore sued the director, his Lightstorm Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation on December 19, 2011. The writer claimed that copies of his Aquatica and Descendants: The Pollination screenplays made their way to Cameron in 1993 and 1994 through Lightstorm production assistants. Though Moore says he was eventually told the company did not accept the submissions, he found “striking substantial similarities” between his scripts and 2009’s Avatar. Cameron has said in court filings that he had Avatar mapped out in a detailed scriptment before any such materials by Moore were submitted to his company. Moore is seeking $1.5 billion in profits and another $1 billion in punitive damages.
“Clear, undisputed evidence” reveals director James Cameron came up with the concept for Avatar, a U.S. District Court judge ruled in Los Angeles. Late last week, Judge Margaret Murrow granted (read the ruling here) the Oscar-winning director’s request for summary judgement in a suit from Gerald Morawski, who accused Cameron of ripping off his ideas to come up with the 2009 3D blockbuster. Morawaski claimed that back in 1991 he pitched Cameron on an environmental themed concept called Guardians of Eden. He sued Cameron in late 2011 for Breach of Contract and other claims. The case has been inching through the courts ever since. This is the second such suit Cameron has won recently. In September last year, the director and Fox prevailed over a copyright infringement suit from writer Elijah Schkeiban who claimed Avatar was ripped-off his novel and subsequent film script Bats And Butterflies. Here’s a statement from Cameron today on this latest ruling:
“It is a sad reality of our business that whenever there is a successful film, people come out of the woodwork claiming that their ideas were used. AVATAR was my most personal film, drawing upon themes and concepts that I had been exploring for decades. I am grateful that the Court saw through the blatant falsity
James Cameron‘s company Lightstorm Entertainment has acquired film rights to the 2011 novel The Informationist by Taylor Stevens to put on Cameron’s to-direct list after he finishes the second and third Avatar sequels. Those are currently in preproduction. 20th Century Fox will release the film, which will be produced by Cameron and his Lightstorm partner Jon Landau, who will soon go out to writers for the adaptation.
The Informationist, which came out in October 2011, centers on Vanessa “Michael” Munroe, an information specialist whose work is in-demand by corporations, heads of state, private clients, and anyone else who can pay for her unique brand of expertise. When a Texas oil billionaire hires her to find his daughter who vanished in Africa four years ago, Munroe finds herself back in the lands of her childhood. Betrayed, cut off from civilization and left for dead, she must come face-to-face with the past that she’s tried for so long to forget. A second Munroe novel, The Innocent, was published this year.
The most successful movie of all time is not a rip off of a screenwriter’s unmade film and novel, the U.S. District court ruled today. “Bats And Butterflies is a children’s story with a simple protagonist,” said Judge Manuel Real, Monday in Los Angeles. “Avatar is a more complex story about a conflicted protagonist.” The judge went on to add that the two were “not substantially similar” to each other. Back in the beginning of the year, Elijah Schkeiban filed a copyright infringement suit against James Cameron, 20th Century Fox, the director’s Lightstorm Entertainment and production company Dune Entertainment claiming that 2009’s Avatar was based on his novel and subsequent film script. The two sides have been chipping away at it legally ever since with the defendants getting successfully getting two motions to dismiss and Schkeiban amending his complaint.
Disney CEO Bob Iger let the frog out of the bag at the company’s annual meeting in Kansas City today. “Somewhere in my mind I know that work is being done on a sequel,” he said, before stopping himself saying he didn’t know how much has been disclosed about a second ‘The Muppets‘ movie. Iger added, in response to a question, that design work is “just beginning” for the Avatar attraction planned for Animal Kingdom in Orlando — and “in all likelihood” it won’t open until 2015. He says the company is “working on some concepts” to introduce attractions involving Marvel characters. They’re also “kicking around ideas” to enhance the presence of Pirates Of The Caribbean and Cars at the parks. “It would be tough to do walk-around characters” for Cars, he said.
Director James Cameron’s newly purchased farmland in New Zealand outside Wellington is fueling local speculation that he intends to make a significant portion of his two Avatar sequels in New Zealand. Reports say Cameron’s property is about 12 miles from the estate of fellow filmmaker Peter Jackson who’s currently at work on two-parter The Hobbit. Cameron’s property amounts to nearly 2,500 acres in the Wairarapa region about 50 miles northeast of Wellington, records show. The Avatar director owns two separate properties in the vicinity known for beef, sheep and dairy farming as well as vineyards. Cameron reportedly paid about $16.7 million. Records indicate Cameron and his Malibu-based family plan to “reside indefinitely” in New Zealand.
Disney’s newly announced Avatar theme-park attraction is ”a perfect example of something that could be a needle mover” for the company’s parks operation, CFO Jay Rasulo said today at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia Conference. The arrangement with Fox and director James Cameron is “a standard licening deal” that doesn’t provide them with a percentage of ticket sales — but does share revenue from merchandise. Rasulo adds that the initiative likely won’t ”stick out llike a sore thumb” in Disney’s costs: ”We just won’t do something else we were going to do” at Animal Kingdom. After next year ”there will be a significant decline in the capital we invest in our parks,” bringing Disney “relatively closer to our historic level of spending.” That’s important to analysts who fear that construction and investment costs will hurt profit margins. “We look forward to the day when people say ‘you’re back’ and don’t ask that question anymore.”