‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ directed by Tim Miller is being viewed as a reboot of the franchise which has struggled over the years. For this sequel, Miller opted to construct it as a direct sequel to 1991’s ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’, and will ignore everything that came after that. The hope is that this will kick off a new franchise for producers Skydance Media, and 20th Century Fox (now a Disney subsidiary) and Paramount. But not so fast! The studios may soon lose the rights to the ‘Terminator’ brand altogether, along with those to the ‘Predator’ franchise, and ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, which you probably know better as ‘Die Hard’. Disney is looking to lose the rights to ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’, while Warner Brothers may lose ‘Beetlejuice’.
Gale Anne Hurd, who wrote the original ‘Terminator’ has filed papers to “terminate a copyright grant made 35 years ago,” the Hollywood Reporter reveals.
“In the late 1970s, Congress amended the law to allow authors to grab back rights from studios after waiting a few decades. Until now, the termination provision has largely been exploited by musicians, not screenwriters. But records show a flurry of termination notices in the past year — under law, they can come 35 years after publication — which threatens to unsettle who owns the ability to make sequels and reboots of iconic films from the mid- to late-’80s.”
David Ellison’s Skydance Media currently holds the rights to ‘Terminator’, which is being produced through Fox. Ellison and Skydance Media bought the rights from his sister Megan Ellison, who acquired them for $20 million at an auction in 2011.
If you’re familiar with the Fox ‘X-Men’ and ‘Fantastic Four’ deals, this is similar. Studios have to utilize the disputed properties or lose the rights. The original writers can file to reclaim the rights and the studios have two years to act. That’s how this year’s lackluster ‘Pet Sematary’ came to be. Stephen King is actively filing to reclaim the rights to his properties, so Paramount cranked out their reboot in order to keep the film rights.
Entertainment attorney Larry Zerner stated:
“Since the author has to give at least two years notice of the termination, that gives the studios two years notice that it’s ‘use it or lose it. Even if Paramount was on the fence about a remake, once the termination went into effect, it would be out of their hands or they would have to pay a much larger fee.”
Gary K. Wolf, who wrote the novel ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ is seeking to get the rights back, after Disney has sat on the property for decades without doing anything with it. Michael McDowell wants ‘Beetlejuice’ back, although it has recently been turned into a hit Broadway musical. (It isn’t specified if that counts as using the property since it isn’t a film.) Roderick Thorp, who wrote the novel ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, on which ‘Die Hard’ was based, has filed termination papers. The last ‘Die Hard’ flick was the poorly received ‘A Good Day To Die Hard’ in 2013. David Mamet is another writer who is “on the warpath” to reclaim his intellectual properties.
Victor Miller sought to reclaim the rights to ‘Friday the 13th’. The most recent film in this franchise was 2009’s ‘Friday the 13th’, which was produced by New Line Cinema, Platinum Dunes, and Crystal Lake Entertainment. The current rights holder is arguing that Miller’s script was done on a “work for hire” basis and that he doesn’t have any claim to the property.
Intellectual property attorney Marc Toberoff represents Miller and others but says that these termination papers are jumping-off points for negotiations. In other words, the original writers don’t necessarily want to take the properties away from the current studios… they just want to profit (or profit more) from the new movies being made using their original ideas.
When asked about the current situation regarding ‘Terminator’, Skydance Media issued a statement, saying:
“Skydance has a deal in place with Jim Cameron and controls the rights to the Terminator franchise for the foreseeable future.”
For the time being, ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ is set for release on November 1st.