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. READ MORE »
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:
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 …
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.
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.
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.
So the Top 5 order now for all-time box office worldwide grosses (but not adjusted for inflation or higher ticket prices or 3D premiums) is:
1. Avatar 2D (Fox – 2009) $2.7B
2. Titanic 2D (Fox/Paramount – 1997) $1.8B
3. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 3D (Warner Bros – 2011) …
The UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies has called for all movies featuring smoking to be rated for adults only in Great Britain unless there’s a good reason for the characters to be lighting up. But UK film censor David Cooke tells me there’s no public support. The disagreement comes on the heels of a just-published Bristol University study that questioned 5,000 UK 15-year-olds and analyzed some of the top U.S. movies released here from 2001-05 that depict smoking. Researchers say that half of those movies are rated UK15 or below, exposing children and teenagers to tobacco addiction. “Smoking in films remains a major and persistent driver of smoking uptake among children and young people, which the actions of irresponsible filmmakers, incompetent regulators and insouciant politicians are abjectly failing to control,” study co-authors John Britton and Alison Lyons write. The report highlighted Avatar and
Disney has licensed exclusive global rights to the Avatar franchise from Fox and James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment — and the director will help to develop the attractions, CEO Bob Iger says. The first will be at Animal Kingdom in Orlando. The goal, he says, is to enable visitors to “enter the Avatar universe and explore it first-hand.” Cameron adds that “to bring that to life at Animal Kingdom is fantastic because it’s so thematically aligned. … We want to do things that maybe they haven’t even thought of.” Tom Staggs, who runs Disney’s theme parks, says the company is “just beginning the development phase” for a complex that will begin construction in 2013 and include Avatar-themed shops and food destinations to “bring that world to life.” Although he wouldn’t say how much the company has budgeted, he compared the scope of the first project to the 12-acre Cars Land site at Disney California Adventure Park. Cameron is working on two Avatar sequels that he plans to release around Christmas 2014 and 2015. ”That seems to correspond well” with the park plans, he says — noting that the destination will include environmental features that don’t appear in the movie. Iger says the attraction will open after the movies, although “we’re in the ballpark.” Avatar will add jobs in the ”low single digit thousands,” Staggs says. Here’s the release:
BURBANK, Calif. — Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide is joining forces with visionary filmmaker James Cameron and Fox Filmed Entertainment to bring the world of AVATAR to life at Disney parks. Through an exclusive agreement announced today by Disney, Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox, Disney will partner with Cameron and producing partner Jon Landau to create themed lands that will give theme park guests the opportunity to explore the mysterious universe of AVATAR first hand. Disney plans to build the first AVATAR themed land at Walt Disney World, within the Animal Kingdom park. With its emphasis on living in harmony with nature, Animal Kingdom is a natural fit for the AVATAR stories, which share the same philosophy. Construction is expected to begin by 2013.
LOS ANGELES (August 9, 2011) __ Kathy Franklin has been named President of Franchise Development at Lightstorm Entertainment. Announced by James Cameron and Jon Landau, the hire signifies Lightstorm’s commitment, in collaboration with Twentieth Century Fox, to building the franchise and brand of AVATAR beyond the traditional licensing and merchandising avenues.
Cameron commented, “Anticipating the exponential growth of the Avatar universe, we looked for someone who could lead a team that will cement Avatar as a world class brand across all platforms and markets. Kathy’s experience, coupled with her drive and vision for what Avatar can be, made her the right choice.”
Franklin is a seasoned leader with a proven record of designing and implementing industry-leading branding, growth and communications strategies. As Vice President of Global Studio Franchise Development for Disney Consumer Products, she led the strategies that drove the Disney Princess, Disney Fairies, Cars and Toy Story franchises while building integrated partnerships with film, television, and online divisions of The Walt Disney Company. Before that, Franklin was Vice President of Disney Worldwide Outreach, during which she ran marketing and communications for all corporate philanthropic outreach and charitable giving. Franklin’s first position at Disney was Director of Disney Learning Partnership, a philanthropy focused on supporting creative approaches to teaching and learning, which she helped launch and for which Franklin created DisneyLearning.org and executive produced “The Creative Classroom Series,” an award-winning set of videos and educator guides.
UPDATE, 3:15 PM: Add NewsCorp COO Chase Carey to the list of executives of studio owners who characterize Premium VOD as merely a test that shouldn’t hurt theater owners. In a quarterly earnings conference call with analysts and reporters, Carey said that Fox and other studios are beginning to offer 8-week-old movies to cable and satellite VOD because they had little choice: Services such as Netflix and Redbox are renting DVDs for as little as $1 a night ”and that doesn’t work,” Carey says. “We have to build appropriate values and windows into our business.” Fox is “in the very early stages (of the P-VOD trials) with one small film.” He doesn’t want it to affect exhibition chains because they “set the pace for the film industry.” Still, he hedged when asked whether Fox would let exhibition companies see how well P-VOD movies perform — something that the National Association of Theater Owners says it wants. Carey says he “doesn’t know what request has been made,” although he adds that it’s “important for everyone to understand what’s going on.”