Why the clock is running out for a Superman sequel

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012

The most interesting points in a court ruling on Wednesday over the rights to Superman are, 1, that the rights revert back to the heirs of creators Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster in 2013 and, 2, that Warner Brothers has no script and no development plans for a sequel to Bryan Singer's 2006 Superman Returns.

Indeed, the studio wouldn't be able to release a sequel until 2012 at the earliest, meaning that the clock is running out for Warner.

The details were contained in a ruling that otherwise favored Warner and its corporate sibling DC Comics in a suit filed by the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerome Siegel, Variety reported. Here's some of what the trade paper reported:

In a decision announced Wednesday, U.S. Judge District Court Judge Stephen G. Larson found that the license fees the studio paid to corporate sibling DC Comics didn't represent "sweetheart" deals as they weren't below fair market value. That means the heirs will be able seek profits only from DC Comics—which earned $13.6 million from Warner Brothers for the 2006 release of Superman Returns—rather than from Warner Brothers as well. ...

The judge also set a Dec. 1 trial date for determining the allocation of profits to the heirs, who won a ruling last year from Larson that awarded them half the copyright for the Superman material. ...

The judge, who conducted a 10-day bench trial, also noted that Warner Brothers chairman Alan Horn had testified that he hopes to make another Superman movie but added that the property wasn't under development at the studio, that no script had been written and that the earliest another Superman pic could be released would be in 2012. ...

Attorney Marc Toberoff, who represents heirs Joanne Siegel and Laura Siegel Larson, told Daily Variety that the judge had erred in not considering comparable licensing deals for best-selling novels penned by Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton and popular musicals such as My Fair Lady. ...

Toberoff also asserted in a written statement that the Siegel heirs and the heirs of co-creator Joe Shuster will own the entire Superman copyright in 2013.