The moves over who owns the rights to make a Dungeons & Dragons movie and who is actually going to make one have taken another roll of the dice on the legal tabletop with studios Universal and Warner Bros watching on the sidelines. More than half a year after Hasbro filed a copyright and trademark infringement complaint against Sweetpea Entertainment on May 14, the latter is seeking a partial dismissal of the case. Hasbro has a potential D&D deal with Universal and Sweetpea has an agreement with Warner Bros. With a team led by heavyweight entertainment lawyer Patricia Glazer of Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro, producer Courtney Solomon’s Sweetpea filed a motion for partial summary judgment on December 13 (read it here). “To establish copyright infringement, a plaintiff must show that the defendant has used protectable elements of the plaintiff’s copyrighted works in an infringing work. Here, plaintiffs allege that a script entitled Chainmail infringes copyrights they own. Chainmail, however, was not written by Sweetpea, nor did Sweetpea have a hand in developing the script. “Chainmail was written without any involvement by Sweetpea,” says the 14-page motion filed in LA federal. To put it simply Sweetpea may have looked at script from a studio but they’re not making Chainmail as some sort of D& D derivative. Sweetpea has requested a hearing on its motion for January 24.
UPDATE, 5:52 PM: The other player in the battle over who owns the movie rights to Dungeons & Dragons has just made their latest move. Regardless of the copyright and trademark infringement complaint …
EXCLUSIVE: Yesterday, I broke a story about Warner Bros making big plans on a live-action feature based on the role-playing fantasy game fixture Dungeons & Dragons. Not so fast, says Hasbro, which claims that it owns the rights to D&D, and that the toymaker company has set up the project at Universal to be developed as a directing vehicle by Chris Morgan, the scribe behind the last five films in The Fast And The Furious franchise (including the upcoming Fast 6) and 47 Ronin.
Well, nobody is commenting for the record at Warner Bros, but I can tell you the studio isn’t backing down from its plans to move forward on a project that already has a completed script by Wrath Of The Titans scribe David Leslie Johnson, with Roy Lee producing alongside Courtney Solomon. Solomon actually directed the 2000 feature based on the billion-dollar fantasy game. Hasbro spokesman Wayne Charness said that “Hasbro owns the intellectual property rights to Dungeons & Dragons, period, because of Hasbro’s acquisition of Wizards Of The Coast in 1998.” Insiders on the other project maintain this has come up before, and that in a binding arbitration decision, Solomon prevailed and was proven to hold the underlying rights necessary to make the Warner Bros movie possible.
Discovery Communications and Hasbro have poached Disney Channel/Disney XD executive Nikki Reed as head of programming for their joint venture, rival children’s cable network The Hub, which is looking to expand into live-action programming. Reed, named SVP Programming & Development for The Hub, replaces Donna Ebbs, who served as the first programming chief for The Hub since its October 2010 launch. Ebbs is now transitioning to a consultant and executive producer role. “Our goal is to utilize my relationships with writers, producers and talent to grow The Hub’s existing slate of programming and enhance it with more live-action series,” said Reed, who reports to The Hub president and CEO Margaret Loesch. Hub’s current lineup is dominated by animated shows, while Reed’s background is in primarily live-action programing. For the past three years, she was VP Original Series, overseeing live-action development for Disney Channel and Disney XD where she developed Jessie, Austin And Ally, Dog With A Blog, Lab Rats, and Crash & Bernstein.
Emmett/Furla Films will finance and co-produce three films based on Hasbro properties in the next two years. The deal was announced today by co-founders Randall Emmett & George Furla and Hasbro’s Senior Vice President and head of Hasbro Films, Bennett Schneir. Emmett/Furla and Hasbro will co-produce with Brandon Grimes; Envision Entertainment’s Stepan Martisoyan and Remington Chase and Emmett/Furla will co-finance. First up will be Monopoly, which they hope to get into production next year. Hasbro’s last overall deal was at Universal, which made Battleship with them. The studio scrapped plans to do several other Hasbro films, some of which have been set up elsewhere.
Is this an offer you can’t refuse? Just remember: You don’t have to wipe everybody out. Just your enemies.
CARLSBAD, Calif., June 14, 2012 — It’s not personal, it’s business as you systematically eliminate your opponents to reign supreme in this classic MONOPOLY game with a Godfather twist. Produced by USAOPOLY, under license from Hasbro and Paramount Licensing, this collector’s game celebrates the 40th anniversary of the release of one of the most seminal films of our time.
Sony Pictures has jumped aboard the Hasbro bandwagon that Universal jumped off of. Sony is developing the animated film Tonka, based on the 65-year-old kiddie car brand. The studio announced the arrangement in a press release, with Sony Pictures Animation and Happy Madison Productions producing the movie with Hasbro. Adam Sandler and Jack Giarraputo’s Happy Madison is also producing a movie version of Hasbro’s Candy Land for Sony, and the studio is separately developing Hasbro’s Risk.
Conspicuously absent from the press release is Hasbro’s most recent credit, Battleship, the Universal Pictures summer tentpole wannabe that bore little resemblance to the board game and sank loudly at the box office. Universal has put the majority of Hasbro properties into turnaround — including the priority project Stretch Armstrong as well as Clue; Monopoly; and Magic, The Gathering – a disappointing result for a strategic alliance between the studio and the toymaker’s film production arm made when brands were considered big for studios. It has been hit or miss for Hasbro in Hollywood. While Battleship was a failure, the Hasbro toy line Transformers turned into a billion-dollar franchise by sticking close to the core appeal of the toy and then creating something very watchable onscreen.
Can Sony succeed in the Hasbro brand game where Universal failed? The studio must be getting a better deal than the rich first dollar gross pact that Hasbro got paid by Universal (the film Ouija was dropped by Universal over its $100 million budget, and then was brought back at the studio when it was reconfigured at a $5 million budget). Paramount is going through some turmoil on the other major Hasbro property, G.I. Joe, which had its release date pushed as the studio tries to solve problems on the film. All this means that playing the branding game is perilous for studios, unless there is a definite loyalty to that brand, and a filmmaker like Michael Bay who really knows how to make the movie equivalent of a theme-park ride with the spectacle and the humor. Peter Berg is just not that director. Here’s Sony’s release:
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ: HAS) announced today it has entered into agreement with CBS Consumer Products to manufacture and globally market a variety of products based on the STAR TREK property beginning in 2013. The toy line will launch in support of the STAR TREK movie sequel from Paramount Pictures, which will open May 17, 2013.
SAN FRANCISCO & PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ: HAS) and Zynga (NASDAQ: ZNGA) announced today a comprehensive partnership that grants Hasbro the rights to develop a wide range of toy and gaming experiences based across Zynga’s popular social games and brands. As the world’s largest social game developer with more than 227 million monthly active users, Zynga has created some of the world’s most popular social game brands including FarmVille, CityVille and Words With Friends.
Through this agreement, Hasbro has obtained the license to develop and distribute wide ranging product lines based on Zynga’s game brands in a number of toy and game categories. This deal also creates an array of opportunities for co-branded merchandise featuring a combination of both Hasbro and Zynga brands.
Universal Drops Hasbro’s Stretch Armstrong Film, Taylor Lautner Out As Star, Relativity Picks Up For April 2014 Release
BREAKING… UPDATE… Another movie in Hasbro’s groundbreaking deal with Universal Pictures bites the dust. So has another Taylor Lautner project. If you recall, Universal was planning a slate of films based on Hasbro board games beginning with Battleship. Then, the studio put Ouija, Clue, Monopoly and Magic, The Gathering in turnaround. Now, it’s Stretch Armstrong, which Universal at first was determined to make but which now has been dropped and picked up by Relativity Media. The Universal version had Rob Letterman attached to direct and Taylor Lautner attached to star in a whopper of a deal to play the title character. But Deadline has learned that the Twilight Saga star is no longer attached. The Tay-Tay camp is claiming “it was our choice” to pull out of the film, but in fact a project insider told Deadline months ago right after Lautner’s Lionsgate film Abduction bombed that the studio was rethinking the project with Lautner as star but that Hasbro would make the final decision on the status of the project. Looks like that has happened. The Relativity release below makes no mention of Letterman either:
(Beverly Hills, Calif.) January 30, 2012 –Relativity Media has partnered with global branded play company Hasbro, Inc. [NASDAQ-HAS] to develop and produce a live-action tent-pole film based on Stretch Armstrong, the iconic action hero figure launched in the 1970s, it was announced today by Relativity’s Co-President, Tucker Tooley and Hasbro’s President and CEO, Brian Goldner.
Relativity will be the domestic distributor and will release the film internationally through its network of foreign output partners. The film is targeted for an April 11, 2014 release date.
U.S. toy manufacturer Mattel has bought HIT Entertainment, the debt-laden UK children’s toy licensing company behind Thomas the Tank Engine, for $680 million in cash. That’s around $20 million less than owner Apax Partners had wanted for it, I understand, and around $200 million short of the $890 million that Apax paid for the company back in 2005. The deal gives Mattel a foothold in the television business as the Thomas & Friends TV show airs in more than 20 languages worldwide. Rival toymaker Hasbro already has its own production and distribution arm, Hasbro Studios, and owns joint venture kids network The Hub with Discovery Communications. Given the tight regulations governing toy manufacturers making TV shows in Europe, it remains to be seen how Mattel will fare if it pitches new programs featuring its toys to public broadcasters.