Hasbro Fights Over Dungeons & Dragons Movie


     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Hasbro sued a Hollywood production company for making a movie of the role-playing fantasy game “Dungeons & Dragons.”
     Hasbro and its subsidiary Wizards of the Coast sued Sweetpea Entertainment and Sweetpea B.V.I. [British Virgin Islands] Ltd., in Federal Court.
     Hasbro claims that Sweetpea is working with Warner Bros. to make a movie, “Chainmail,” using many elements of Dungeons & Dragons.
     Warner Bros. is not a party to the complaint.
     Time magazine reported this week that Hasbro is developing a Dungeons & Dragons movie with Universal.
     Hasbro asked the court to enjoin Sweetpea from making the film, and wants a declaration that it owns movie and TV rights to game.
     “In recent correspondence from Sweetpea and in reports in the media, Sweetpea has alleged that it, and not Hasbro, owns the rights to produce and exploit, and to license others (including WB) the right to produce and exploit, a theatrical motion picture based on the property,” the complaint states.
     Hasbro claims that a 1994 license agreement granted Sweetpea rights to make Dungeons & Dragons movies, sequels, prequels, remakes, live action television series and television movies.
     Sweetpea entered into the license with the original Dungeons & Dragons owner, TSR, Hasbro says. In 1997, Wizards of the Coast acquired TSR. Hasbro bought TSR in 1999, and with it, ownership of Dungeons & Dragons.
     Sweetpea produced a box office flop, “Dungeons & Dragons,” more than a decade ago, and exploited its license to produce two television movies: 2005’s “Wrath of the Dragon,” and 2012’s “The Book of Vile Darkness,” Hasbro says in the complaint.
     Both movies appeared on the SyFy channel.
     At the heart of the dispute is a 1998 settlement between Sweetpea and TSR, which that year sued Sweetpea for breach of the license agreement, Hasbro claims.
     That settlement included reversion rights if Sweetpea failed to make another theatrical movie based on the role-playing game within five years of the initial movie’s release, the complaint states.
     “Specifically, the first amendment contains two separate reversion provisions – one related to the sequel rights and one related to the television rights, each operating independently. The first amendment provided that the sequel rights would ‘revert on a rolling basis … on the earlier of (i) five (5) years from of [sic] the initial U.S. release or (ii) seven (7) years from final director’s cut of the immediately prior picture,'” the complaint states, citing the amendment. “A second separate provision in the first amendment provided that the television rights would revert to Hasbro if Sweetpea failed to ‘commence a production based on the [television rights] on a rolling basis within five (5) years after the initial broadcast of the final original episode of any television series or of any television motion picture[.]'”
     Hasbro claims Sweetpea planned to release “Wrath of Dragon” in the theaters but then broadcast it on television instead.
     “Thus, the first television movie represented an exercise of the television rights and did not reset the sequel rights’ five-year reversion clock,” the complaint states.
     “The Book of Vile Darkness” release on SyFy was an exercise of television, not sequel, rights, Hasbro says.
     “Thus, the sequel rights reverted to Hasbro as early as December 8, 2005, but in no event later than October 8, 2010, five years after the initial broadcast of the first TV Movie,” the complaint states.
     Warner Bros. sent Hasbro a copy of the “Chainmail” script last year, but Hasbro says it declined the project. The script is based on a little-known game by one of Dungeons & Dragons’ original designers, but includes several elements of the famous role-playing game.
     When Sweetpea and Warner moved on the project, Hasbro says, it sent Sweetpea a letter reminding it of Hasbro’s rights. Sweetpea denied that Hasbro owned the movie and television rights, and confirmed that it was making the film with Warner.
     The studio has hired “Wrath Of The Titans” and “Red Riding Hood” screenwriter David Leslie Johnson to write “Chainmail.” Producers Roy Lee and Sweetpea owner Courtney Solomon have signed on to produce, industry website Deadline Hollywood reported. Solomon helmed the first Dungeons & Dragons film, which only grossed $33 million despite costing $45 million to make, according to industry publications.
     Hasbro seeks statutory and actual damages, costs and an injunction.
     It is represented by Michael Weinsten with Lavely & Singer of New York City.
     Solomon could not immediately be reached for comment.

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