‘Terminator’ rights a battle far from over

02.09.10 9 years ago

For the dwindling “Terminator” fanbase, these are sad days indeed.  After the creative disappointment of the last installment of the franchise, “Terminator Salvation,” the property has been stalled by the bankruptcy filing of production outfit Halcyon.  After constant ownership changes since it’s inception, an auction for the rights to the groundbreaking genre saga seemed as though it would settle the future of “Terminator,” but that hardly appears the case now.

Yesterday, the final bidders in the process including Sony Pictures, Lionsgate and private equity firm Pacificor appeared in person to deliver final bids before appearing Wednesday in front of Halcyon’s bankruptcy judge.  Sony Pictures distributed the last two installments of “Terminator” overseas and Pacificor was an investor in Halcyon.  Reports indicate a contentious auction took place with both Sony and Lionsgate (who teamed up beforehand to secure the bid) feeling duped that the whole auction was a legal maneuver for Pacificor to gain control of the property and erase the debt Halcyon was owed. Meaning, the two parties never intended to allow anyone else to gain control of the property rights.  The fund, which has no experience in the movie business let along production, shelled out $29.5 million for the rights, a figure many thought was too high considering the state of the franchise to begin with.

Showing that competitors can sometimes become strange bedfellows, Pacificor is now negotiating with Sony and Lionsgate to distribute future “Terminator” films.  The question is: who is going to produce them?  Without a large monetary stake neither of the two studios has an investment in properly shepherding the property.  Moreover, is a bankruptcy-free Halcyon the outfit that should be making these movies?  The cocky producers have already soured their reputations across Hollywood their first time at bat.  That’s not a good mix for a franchise that needs a talented, experienced and steady hand.

In theory, all will be resolved at the hearing tomorrow which “should” be a formal validation of the sale to Pacificor.  However, Sony and Lionsgate could still file an objection to the court regarding the auction process.  That move could may delay any settlement for months, if not longer. 

Meanwhile, those who wondered why James Cameron who created the property way back in 1984 and is cash flush after his “Titanic” and “Avatar” successes didn’t attempt to reclaim it now know why he smartly stood on the sidelines along with a laundry list of other potential players.  This is one mess where it appears nobody wins.

More on this story as it develops on HitFix.

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