The Predator franchise had its last release with 2018's The Predator, which had a strong opening weekend. While another Predator movie is in the works, a recent development has complicated those plans. An issue between the original Predator scribes and Disney’s 20th Century Studios has become public thanks to lawsuits being been filed.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Jim and John Thomas, who wrote 1987's Predator, have filed a lawsuit against 20th Century Studios over the copyrights to the sci-fi action classic. The Thomas brothers allegedly filed the suit to exploit a copyright termination provision. The biggest push was the rights to their original Predator script, titled Hunters, reportedly expiring on April 17. That loophole would allow the brothers to cancel any transfers 35 years after creating the original script. Their attorney Marc Toberoff stated in the filing:
In 2016, the Thomas brothers properly availed themselves of their right under Section 203(a) of the Copyright Act to recover the copyright to their literary material by serving and recording with the U.S. Copyright Office within the prescribed statutory window, a notice of termination with an effective termination date of April 17, 2021.
Jim and John Thomas alleged that they filed a termination notice to then-20th Century Fox in 2016, but the brothers have a huge fight on their hands now. Disney’s 20th Century Studios filed a countersuit against them. The countersuit is reportedly a way for the House of Mouse to keep the franchise under its ever-expanding film roster. Disney’s law firm O'Melveny claimed in its filing:
There now exists between the parties an actual and justiciable controversy concerning the validity of Notice One and 20th Century’s and defendants’ respective rights. Defendants’ notices fail to comply with these statutory requirements and are invalid as a matter of law. 20th Century seeks a declaration pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201 that defendants’ notices of termination are invalid. This action is necessary because defendants are improperly attempting to prematurely terminate 20th Century’s rights to the Hunters Screenplay, at the very time that 20th Century is investing substantial time, money, and effort in developing another installment in its successful Predator franchise.
These lawsuits couldn’t have come at the worst time for both Disney and 20th Century Studios. In 2020, it was announced that 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg will helm a fifth Predator installment, with a script penned by Patrick Aison. But for now, those plans might be on the backburner as the two sides are set to battle in court over the franchise's rights.
With news of the lawsuits becoming known, this reported situation has cast a long shadow over the Predator franchise’s current future. Hopefully, the two sides will come to a mutual agreement so franchise fans will be able to enjoy more stories in the years to come.