The return of Michael Myers to theaters in October seems to have revitalized a heavy interest from filmgoers in the slasher sub-genre of horror. Early estimates are calling for the film to open to $50 million, which would set the record for the highest-grossing opening weekend in the franchise. For old school fans of the genre, this is exciting as it could be the start of a new slasher film boom. As much as fans are enjoying the comeback of Halloween, however, many have still been hoping for years to see Jason Voorhees back on the big screen as well.
Unfortunately, progress on a new Friday the 13th film had been put on hold pending the outcome of an ongoing legal battle. Victor Miller, writer of the screenplay for the Original 1980 Friday the 13th movie, sought to reclaim ownership of his written work with a stipulation of the US Copyright Act which allows original authors to terminate a grant of rights after 35 years. The producers and current rights-holders, including the film's director Sean Cunningham, responded by suing Miller. They claim Miller's services were work-for-hire under the direct supervision of Cunningham, and that the author has already been fairly compensated.
For over a year, the legal battle has stalled, pending a final ruling to come from the judge. That has finally happened, with the court ultimately ruling in favor of Miller, the defendant. Officially, Judge Stefan Underhill ruled that Miller did not write the film as a work-for-hire, and there wasn't sufficient evidence to prove otherwise. However, Miller will only regain the rights to the film in the United States, and there remains a good chance the plaintiffs will appeal the decision.
Underhill also spoke on the further complications concerning the character of Jason Voorhees. Miller created the character as a young boy who drowned in the original film, with his mother Mrs. Voorhees serving as the film's killer. The murderous adult version of Jason didn't come into play until the sequel, and he doesn't even get his familiar hockey mask until the third film. Because of this, Underhill noted that there are grounds for producers to maintain an independent copyright with the adult Jason shown in the sequels, but that's a matter that would need to be decided on in another case.
While there may be further issues in the courts ironing out these problems with the rights, this decision is tremendous progress. Most fans have taken one side or the other, but what everyone wants most is to see another film be made. Production on a new movie couldn't begin until the legal drama had officially come to an end, so whichever side fans were taking, this decision can be seen as great progress. Jason Voorhees might still be lurking at the bottom of Crystal Lake, but hopefully we'll get to see him finally reemerge in movie theaters before we know it. This information comes to us from The Hollywood Reporter.