Sometimes before a movie gets made, the exclusive rights to make the movie change hands several times. This can often result in a lawsuit (e.g., the litigation that delayed ‘The Watchmen’) over the rights and Conan is now the subject of just such a suit filed last Friday in US District Court in California. The rights to Conan, once owned variously by Marvel, Conan Sales Co., and others, were acquired by Stan Lee Media, Inc. (SLMI) in 2000; however, SLMI filed for bankruptcy in 2001, spawning years of litigation over the hot character properties it held. In 2001/early 2002, as part of the bankruptcy proceedings, Conan Sales Co. reacquired the rights to Conan, through a transfer partly done by attorney Arthur Lieberman, and then sold them to Paradox Entertaiment. Paradox, the purported current owners of Conan, are the Swedish company behind the recent movie, computer game, and new comic books. SLMI continued to languish in BK court until 2010, when a new board was approved.
On the same day the new 3D “Conan the Barbarian,” starring the Brobdingnagian Jason “Khal Drogo” Mamoa hit theaters, SLMI filed suit against Paradox, Conan Sales Co., Liebermann, and others. SLMI has been involved in separate litigations against Stan Lee himself and others over the rights to many Marvel-associated characters (i.e., Spiderman, X-Men, Hulk, etc.), which has seen the inside of courts in California, New York, and Colorado. The essence of this new Conan suit appears to be that the 2002 transfer of Conan from SLMI to Conan Sales was procedurally improper and improperly motivated. In BK, all assets of the petitioner are automatically stayed and placed into an estate which is monitored by the court. The complaint alleges that the “Settlement Approval Order” which allowed the transfer of Conan was not allowed to be opposed by SLMI shareholders. The suit seeks the return of all exclusive rights to Conan as well as any profits made from the series.
However, some unanticipated bad news for all involved is the poor showing that Conan made at the box office this weekend. The film, which is reported to have a budget of up to $90 million, came in 4th at the box office with $10 million.