20th Century Fox is suing Warner Bros. over the rights to develop, produce, and distribute the film adaptation of the graphic novel Watchmen. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox is currently trying to block Warner's from moving any further ahead on the project, which has been filming for months.
Fox claims that they hold the exclusive copy write and contract rights to Alan Moore's popular comic book. The film is currently in production. It is being directed by Zack Snyder and stars Jackie Earle Haley, Billy Crudup, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino and Malin Akerman.
Fox claims that they acquired all of the movie rights to the project sometime between 1986 and 1990. In 1991, Fox assigned some rights to Largo International with the understanding that the studio held exclusive rights to distribute the first motion picture based on the novel. When Largo dismantled, the rights were transferred to producer Lawrence Gordon. Under a "turnaround agreement" between Fox and Gordon, the producer agreed to pay a buy-out price to Fox if he entered into any agreement with another studio or third party to develop or produce Watchmen.
Fox says that neither Gordon nor Warners has paid the buy-out price or advised the studio of any other conditions required under the agreement, including procedures necessary to acquire the rights to Watchmen from Fox.
Watchmen is currently set for a March 6th, 2009 release date. That could know change depending on the outcome of this legal case.