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Disney and Original ‘Predator’ Screenwriters Set for Legal Battle Over Rights to the Franchise

IndieWire logo IndieWire 4/16/2021 Zack Sharf
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Disney-owned 20th Century and original “Predator” screenwriters John and Jay Thomas are preparing for a legal battle over the rights to the 34-year-old science-fiction horror franchise, which includes four movies and the “Alien vs. Predator” mash-up project. The Thomas brothers wrote the screenplays for 1987’s “Predator,” directed by John McTiernan and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and its 1990 sequel “Predator 2.” The brothers have filed a lawsuit against Disney to recapture the rights to the “Predator” franchise, prompting Disney to file its own lawsuit against the brothers to retain the rights.

According to The Hollywood Reporter: “The Thomas brothers are seeking to exploit copyright law’s termination provision, which allows authors to cancel transfers after waiting a period of time, typically 35 years for newer works…Jim and John Thomas say they served a termination notice all the way back in 2016 — and for four and a half years heard no objection.”

The legal battle comes months after reports hit last November that Disney’s 20th Century Studios was hiring “10 Cloverfield Lane” director Dan Trachtenberg to develop a new “Predator” movie. The script for the fifth installment in the “Predator” franchise is being written by “Kingdom” and “Jack Ryan” scribe Patrick Aison. The most recent “Predator” release was 2018’s “The Predator,” directed by Shane Black, and it became the franchise’s highest-grossing entry with $160 million worldwide (unadjusted for inflation).

20th Century reacted to the Thomas’ brothers lawsuit in a statement that reads (via THR): “While federal statutory copyright law endows certain grantors, like defendants [the Thomas brothers], with copyright termination rights, such rights may only be exercised in accordance with the statute’s requirements, including provisions delineating when termination notices may be served and when the termination of rights becomes effective. Defendants’ notices fail to comply with these statutory requirements and are invalid as a matter of law.”

The Thomas brothers are being represented by Marc Toberoff, who helped the original “Friday the 13th” writer recapture the rights to the horror franchise back in 2018 (it’s now pending appeal). One lawyer representing Disney’s 20th Century is Daniel Petrocelli, who faced off against Toberoff in the multi-year battle over the rights to “Superman.” Warner Bros. won that fight.

For more on the legal battle brewing between the Thomas brothers and Disney, head over to The Hollywood Reporter’s website.

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