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Rival studios reach deal on 'Watchmen' release
LOS ANGELES — The superhero film "Watchmen" will be watched by audiences after all — and on time.
Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox settled their nearly yearlong dispute over the movie Thursday, the studios announced in a joint statement.
The movie will open in theaters March 6 as planned, the statement said. The exact terms of the agreement were not disclosed and will remain confidential.
The release date had been in doubt for months as each studio's attorneys grappled for an upper hand. Fox contended Warner Bros. shot the film knowing it didn't have all the adequate rights; Warner Bros. countered that Fox had lost its rights in the graphic novel and was owed nothing more than a right of first refusal.
At stake was a movie that has stoked the excitement of "Watchmen" fans and that Warner Bros. claims cost it $150 million to film and market.
Until recently, the studios appeared to be in a stalemate as protracted as the Cold War backdrop of the film's source material. But a Christmas Eve ruling by U.S. District Judge Gary Allen Feess found that Fox did have at least a distribution stake in the film.
Within days of that ruling, Warner Bros. and Fox were in serious settlement negotiations.
Attorneys were scheduled to update Feess on the settlement Friday morning.
While the studios agreed on little throughout the case, the statement released Thursday sought to end months of acrimony.
"Warner Bros. and Fox, like all 'Watchmen' fans, look forward with great anticipation to this film's March 6 release in theaters," the statement said.
As part of the agreement, both sides acknowledged the others were acting in "good faith," although Warner Bros. conceded Fox notified it of its rights before filming began.
Fox acquired movie rights to "Watchmen," a graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, in the 1980s.
The project has had a tortured course to the big screen, with Warner Bros. having to resolve issues with other studios that had considered making the film.
The various agreements led Feess to declare during one hearing that the case was "very complex, convoluted."
The same could be said for "Watchmen," which features a complex story line set in an alternate-history United States and characters with names such as Rorschach and Ozymandias.
"Watchmen" has generated considerable buzz, in part because of the threat that the film's release would be delayed or blocked. But the attention is also because its director, Zack Snyder, helped turn another graphic novel, "300," into a blockbuster.