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 filed today by Hasbro, Sweetpea Entertainment say they intend to move ahead with their D&D film at Warner Bros. “This is nothing but shameless opportunism on the part of Hasbro, an effort to use the Court and the legal process in an attempt to delay the project,” said Sweetpea’s Courtney Solomon in a statement late Tuesday. Having retained powerhouse entertainment lawyer Patricia Glazer of Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro, the producer says Sweetpea hopes to deal with the legal matter “quickly and firmly and we are confident we will prevail.” Glazer calls Hasbro’s suit “classic Hollywood shenanigans.” Read the full statement from Sweetpea below:
Sweetpea Entertainment has had Dungeons & Dragons motion picture rights since the 1990’s including sequel, prequel and remake rights” said Sweetpea principal Courtney Solomon. “We have made three pictures so far, and we’re going to make more –including the tentpole project that is currently in advanced stages of development with Warner Bros.”
Last week, trades had reported that Warner Bros. was proceeding with the development of the project, working with a script by David Leslie Johnson, to be produced by Roy Lee, Courtney Solomon and Allan Zeman.
“This is nothing but shameless opportunism on the part of Hasbro, an effort to use the Court and the legal process in an attempt to delay the project,” continued Solomon. “We intend to deal with them quickly and firmly and we are confident we will prevail – just as we did in the 1990’s, when the last legal challenge ended with a confirmation of Sweepea’s rights.
Sweetpea has retained Patricia Glaser of Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro LLP as litigation counsel. “Another suit filed to try to put the freeze on a project,” said Glaser. “Classic Hollywood shenanigans.”
PREVIOUSLY, 1:06 PM: Hasbro says it owns the rights to any Dungeons & Dragons movie now and it’s going to federal court to prove it. As Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr first reported last week, the toy company wasn’t pleased at all with the D+D project called Chainmail that producer Courtney Solomon had set up at Warner Bros because Hasbro had its own film in the works over at Universal. Monday the toy company had its lawyers filed a copyright and trademark infringement complaint against Solomon’s Sweetpea Entertainment to put the brakes on any movie it might try to make. The complaint alleges that Solomon “falsely represented” D+D rights it has. Warner Bros is not named as a defendant in the complaint. However discussions in late 2012 between the toy company and the studio about making a D+D movie are mentioned as is the statement that “Hasbro passed on the script”. The toy company says it did grant Sweetpea the rights back in the 1990s to make one D+D movie. However, with that film coming out in 2000, the feature rights went right back to the toy company after Sweetpea “failed to exercise its Sequel Rights within five years of the U.S. release of the Picture or the First TV movie.” The company claims in its complaint that second TV movies that Sweetpea produced that played on Syfy in 2012 were not a sequel but a stand-alone and therefore not an exercise of rights by Solomon’s company. “Sweetpea’s claims of ownership of the theatrical motion picture rights in the Property is baseless because the Sequel Rights have reverted to Hasbro,” says the 17-page complaint seeking injunctive relief. Hasbro is also seeking unspecified damages as well as legal fees from Sweetpea. The toy company is represented by Michael Weinstein and Daniel Gutenplan of LA firm Lavely & Singer and Maura Wogan and Jeremy Goldman of NY firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz.
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.
Related: Warner Bros Acquires ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ Rights
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. Read More »
This morning’s earnings release says little about the specific charges in the restructuring, but the overall numbers are largely in line with expectations. The company reported a net loss of $6.7M, up from a $2.6M loss in the period … Read More »
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. Read More »
Like other toy companies, Hasbro appears to be struggling to keep its core audience of kids from defecting to video games in a quarter where it didn’t enjoy a jolt of cash from movie licensing as it did last … Read More »
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. Read More »
The toy company provides little commentary in its Q2 earnings report this morning, including on its progress with kids channel The Hub (which it co-owns with Discovery) or movie licensing efforts. Hasbro delivered net earnings of $43.4M, -25.2% vs … Read More »
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.
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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: Read More »
LA-based Hasbro Studios has reached a multiyear deal across several platforms with Netflix for 10 television franchises Transformers Prime, My Little Pony, Pound Puppies, G.I. Joe: Renegades and The Adventures of Chuck & Friends are now available to instantly watch … Read More »
BREAKING: Universal Pictures, which jettisoned its Hasbro-branded project Ouija over budget, has brought in a reconfigured version of the film. The old version, which McG was to direct, had a budget north of $100 … Read More »
Shares are down about 5.5% in pre-market trading after the company behind Transformers and cable’s The Hub kids’ channel reported soft results for the last three months of 2011. Hasbro generated net earnings of $139.1M, down 6.3% vs the … Read More »
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.
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Looks like a lot of kids — OK, their parents — are snapping up the toys and games represented on shows such as Transformers Prime, Clue, and My Little Pony that they see on The Hub. Hasbro COO David D. R. … Read More »
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. Read More »
UPDATE, 9:40 AM: Hasbro’s in “active discussions” with Paramount, Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg about a fourth Transformers, CEO Brian Goldner told analysts in a conference call today. ”Hopefully I’ll have more news for you next quarter,” he said. The most recent edition, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, will generate revenues for Hasbro between the $482M from the first film in the series in 2007 and $592M from the previous one in 2009. In other movie news, the company is reworking the budget for a film based on its Ouija game in the hope of reviving the project that Universal recently dropped. Battleship is on course to be released worldwide in April and in May in the U.S., with G.I. Joe: 2 following in June. Hasbro is working with J.J. Abrams on Micronaughts. Goldner says Hasbro is “actively developing” scripts for films based on Monopoly, Risk, and Clue as well as “projects yet to be named.” Goldner says, though, that Hasbro won’t produce its own films.
The CEO adds that cable channel The Hub is “making great progress” and is “ahead of plan” overseas where its programming runs in 142 countries. The channel is in 61M homes domestically; talks to increase distribution on cable are “going quite well,” although Goldner wouldn’t be specific. Ratings are up. On the advertising side, the channel has 120 more sponsors than it did last year when it was still Discovery Kids.
Goldner’s presentation impressed investors: Hasbro shares are up about 1% in midday trading. They opened down after the company reported 3Q earnings below expectations. Read More »
Creative England Launches, Sets Its Board And Funding
A new organization has risen from the ashes of the UK Film Council’s network of regional screen agencies. At its launch the nonprofit venture Creative England announced 7 board members and 3 senior managers and outlined its funding structure. On the board of Creative England are: Ruby Films founder Alison Owen, Illumina Digital’s Andrew Chitty, Reel Solutions executive director Bill Lawrence, Twofour Group CEO Charles Wace, former Shed Media chair Heather Rabbatts, Maverick TV’s Jonnie Turpie and BBC Four Controller Richard Klein. For 10 years, the regional screen agencies supported industries including film, TV, games and digital media across England outside of London. Creative England will have an initial film budget of £900,000 in grant-in-aid from the British Film Institute and £1m in lottery funds. The funding for other creative endeavors will come from public and commercial sources.
‘Tintin’ Will Screen At Rome Film Festival
Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn will screen at the International Rome Film Festival. Organizers announced that the 3D motion capture movie has been chosen as an out-of-competition official selection. It also will screen in the Alice sidebar focused on youth films. The film’s star Jamie Bell is set to attend the festival, which runs Oct. 27-Nov. 4. Tintin opens in Europe on Oct. 26 before its U.S. rollout on Dec. 21. Read More »