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Last February, author Tess Gerritsen received information that would, over the course of a year, fuel a monumental legal action against Warner Bros and New Line Cinema. That battle pertained to the record breaking, crowd pleasing, Academy Award-winning film Gravity - which, as it happens, shared its title and bits of space terror with a novel that existed over a decade before the film's genesis. A year after the fact, a decision has been made about Gerritsen's lawsuit. That decision has prompted the author to reveal that information, which has highlighted why this suit is probably one of the most important in Hollywood's history.
Gerritsen took to her blog to comment on the recent decision made by U.S. District Judge Margret Morrow to throw out the $10 million lawsuit that claimed Warner Bros. and Alfonso Cuaron made a film that bares more than a coincidental resemblance to her 2000 New York Times bestseller Gravity. Gerritsen is not allowed to make any new claims in the matter, however she has been given 20 days to "revise [her] complaint." This looks to be exactly what the author behind the wildly successful Rizzoli And Isles series is about to do, and her statement below is why this case is so important, as she feels the case embodies the following concern:
"It means that any writer who sold film rights to New Line Productions can have those rights freely exploited by its parent company Warner Bros. — and the original contract you signed with New Line will not be honored. Warner Bros. can make a movie based on your book but you will get no credit, even though your contract called for it."
The big sticking point of Tess Gerritsen's latest revelations is that the adaptation of Gravity, a project optioned by New Line Productions in 1999, entitled her to, "based upon" credit, a production bonus, and a percentage of net profits." However, after 2008's Warner Bros take over of New Line Productions, Alfonso Cuaron allegedly took the idea for his film of the same name from the Tess Gerritsen novel. What's even more interesting is, according to Gerritsen's literary agent, Cuaron was attached adapt Gerritsen's book before directing the alleged ripoff of the same name.
The new angle for Tess Gerritsen and her legal team is to explore the exact relationship between New Line and Warner Bros, as well as whether Warner Bros was right in allegedly assuming that they had no obligation to honor the New Line deal made with Gerritsen. This seems to stem from Gerritsen's claim that in her rewrite for the theatrical adaptation of Gravity, she re-wrote her third act to include, "scenes of satellite debris destroying ISS and the lone surviving female astronaut adrift in her spacesuit." The premise for her third act does, admittedly, overlap with the entire premise of Cuaron's Gravity.
This case does point out an important subject that should be taken into consideration when negotiating with a film company. With the rapid pace of buyouts, mergers, and acquisitions that film studios go through, it's hard to keep pace with who has the exact rights to develop what project the acquired studio has in its holdings. Does the dissolution/take over of a company dissolve previous deals they've made under the old company's header? That's up to Gerritsen's team to determine and for the courts to rule. We'll probably hear something new in the next 20 days, so as soon as we hear anything new we'll let you know.