UPDATED, 1:26 PM: “We’re pleased the Court significantly narrowed the case and look forward to addressing the remaining claims at summary judgment,” a WB spokesperson told Deadline today after Monday’s decision by a federal judge. Among some wins for WB, U.S. District Judge John Gibney removed Time Warner, director James Wan, screenwriters Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes, and RatPac-Dune Productions as defendants in the case, even as an April 16 trial on the remaining matter was penciled in.
The studio also kicked back hard with a corporate smile at Brittle’s attempt to grab some of the $1 billion the franchise has made since 2013’s first movie based on the tales of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s real-life supernatural investigations.
“Mr. Brittle’s claims are not only without merit, but contradict Mr. Brittle’s prior admissions in other failed lawsuits concerning The Conjuring movies,” they added with a boatload of shade.
Whether or not this makes it to a jury trial in Virginia next year, this definitely is looking like it’ll be scary for someone on the docket.
PREVIOUS, August 28 PM: Warner Bros might be very happy with the big-bucks success it has had with The Conjuring franchise, but the studio can’t be pleased that a federal judge today decided the studio will have to face trial in 2018 for copyright infringement over the films.
“This case will move forward as to the copyright claims, the business conspiracy claim and the tortious interference with contract claim against New Line and Warner Bros,” U.S. District Judge John Gibney ordered Monday, rejecting WB’s efforts to have the matter dismissed (read it here).
All of which means that, even with some wins by the studio in the legal tussle, Demonologist author Gerald Brittle’s latest March 29-filed legal effort over the rights to the much litigated 2013 blockbuster horror and its sequels and spinoffs looks to be going to trial before a jury on April 16, 2018 in Virginia.
“The Court declines the parties’ invitation to wade into the truth or falsity of the Warrens’ paranormal escapades or to parse the resulting similiarities between the works at this stage of the case,” Judge Gibney also noted in his seven-page order coming out of arguments heard August 22 in his courtroom. “This type of analysis, which bears on evidence presented and factual determinations, is better suited for summary judgment or trial.”
Contacted by Deadline, Warner Bros said it had no comment on the order or the possibility of a trial.
The studio did see some victories in the matter as parent Time Warner, director James Wan, screenwriters Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes, and RatPac-Dune Productions were removed as defendants in the case. Gibney also rejected Brittle’s request “to conduct jurisdictional discovery” and denied WB’s “motion to stay pending arbitration” in the matter
Now set to see the matter argued in public, WB likely is not pleased about the hundreds of millions of dollars potentially at stake in this case as it inches forward.
While Brittle didn’t name a specific figure in his complaint of this spring, the author of the 1980 book about Ed and Lorraine Warren’s real-life investigations into the seemingly supernatural, which are the basis of The Conjuring tales, is looking to get his hands on whatever the $1 billion-plus worldwide box office that the franchise has made in the past four years over several films.
The latest, Annabelle: Creation, opened to $35 million domestically earlier this month.
“Brittle seeks disgorgement of all of Defendants’ profits derived from said infringement and an injunction to insure the pattern of infringement is stopped,” said the 355-page filing that attorneys Bradley Marrs and Patrick Henry II put before the court for their client in late March- – so you do the math.
John Benjamin Rottenborn of Woods Rogers PLC in Roanoke, VA, represents Warner Bros and New Line. While WB’s favorite outside counsel and Trump attorney Daniel Petrocelli apparently is not on the case for the studio, a trio of lawyers from his firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP are working the case for the studio.