Just how worried are the execs at Universal that their mega budget BATTLESHIP movie might sink at the box office? Apparently they’re worried enough that they’ve actually filed a lawsuit against The Asylum over its AMERICAN BATTLESHIP mockbuster.
I remember writing an article for Dread Central years ago after The Asylum announced their When a Killer Calls mockbuster, stunned they weren’t being sued into oblivion since the film was damn near the exact same movie as the remake of When a Stranger Calls with only a single word in the title changed. I also remember being stunned that producing movies titled Universal Soldiers and The Terminators didn’t result in major lawsuits. I believe the producers of the big screen movies mockbusted by The Asylum via Snakes on a Train and The Day the Earth Stopped flirted with similar lawsuits, and there have been other rumblings of possible legal action over the years, but this is, as far I can recall, the biggest legal incident to date, certainly the most public.
TMZ first reported that Universal Pictures has filed a lawsuit against The Asylum for "unspecified damages" (i.e., big bucks) claiming their American Battleship (hitting DVD/VOD May 22nd, four days after Battleship opens on US movie screens) is "stepping all over its business".
Honestly, if The Asylum could ever produce a mockbuster that legitimately cut into the profit margin of a $200 million studio blockbuster, they probably would no longer need to be in the business of producing mockbusters.
TMZ: According to the lawsuit, Universal spent $100 million producing its film ... and $30 million promoting it in the U.S. alone -- and Asylum's trying to piggy back on its hard work.
I’m going to assume that $100 million is just the portion of the budget Universal sunk into the movie because by all previously reported accounts the Battlefield budget is upwards of $200 million.
Can’t really blame the Universal execs for being nervous. Even though Battleship has already been released internationally and grossed over $100 million worldwide already, they still need the film to be a huge hit domestically, and the buzz has been bad pretty much from the moment it was announced, not to mention word-of-mouth trickling in from those that have already seen overseas isn't exactly stellar. You know they have to be feeling extra jittery over this one after Disney whacked the head of its movie division in the wake of the John Carter fiasco, and he wasn't even the executive who greenlit that $250+ million bomb.
It’ll be interesting to see if anything actually comes of this lawsuit. Will there be an injunction against the release of American Battleship? Will The Asylum lose millions in a lawsuit? Or will it fizzle out as seems to have been the case with previous Asylum legal wrangling?
Personally, I say the best way to settle this is with a pay-per-view boxing match between Battleship star Liam Neeson and American Battleship star Carl Weathers.
Deadline has done a story on the Asylum/Universal lawsuit. Turns out in addition to compensatory damages, Universal also "wants the court to stop all Stateside distribution of American Battleship with an injunction and all American Battleship DVDs, posters, trailers and everything else seemingly related to the movie destroyed."
The Global Asylum issued a defiant reply to Deadline regarding the merits of Universal's lawsuit.
"The Global Asylum has promoted the feature film American Battleship for nearly a year while Universal raised no concerns. The timing of Universal’s recently filed lawsuit coincides with mixed reviews of its big-budget film Battleship — the first movie based on a board game since Clue. Looking for a scapegoat, or more publicity, for its pending box-office disaster, the executives at Universal filed this lawsuit in fear of a repeat of the box office flop John Carter of Mars. The Universal action is wholly without merit, and we will vigorously defend their claims in Court. Nonetheless, we appreciate the publicity."
The best part about this lawsuit, I wonder if the execs at Universal are aware that the day after Battleship opens in American theaters, American Battleship is slated to premiere at 9/8 Central on Syfy, a network owned and operated by NBCUniversal, the parent company of Universal Pictures? Are they also going to sue themselves?