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28
2 YEARS

Sam Raimi Blocks Unauthorized 'Evil Dead' Sequel

A judge orders an injunction after defendant film company loses financing and has trouble paying lawyers to contest in time.

FILM: Sam Raimi

Sam Raimi has prevailed in his effort to stop a production company from releasing an unauthorized sequel to his classic horror trilogy The Evil Dead.

In May, Renaissance Pictures -- formed in 1979 by Raimi, producer Robert Tapert and actor-producer Bruce Campbell for the purpose of making the first Evil Dead film -- sued Award Pictures, which was in the midst of making Evil Dead 4: Consequences. The movie was alleged to be interfering with Raimi's plan to make his own sequel for Sony Pictures and FilmDistrict.

After the lawsuit was filed, Award Pictures and its president Glenn MacCrae failed to respond in court.

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MacCrae tells The Hollywood Reporter he still plans to challenge, but because of the nonresponse thus far in court, a California federal court last week entered a default judgment that permanently enjoins Award Pictures from using the "Evil Dead" trademark or using marketing materials that might confuse the public into believing that Award has rights to the title.

The fight over "Evil Dead" rights erupted in part because of Raimi's ambivalence until late.

In preparing Evil Dead 4, Award Pictures went to the trademark office and argued that since Raimi's first film came out in 1981, his company exhibited a lack of control over it, allowing it to be used as titles in 20 other motion pictures. Additionally, Award pointed to Raimi's comment in a 2000 book that he would never do a sequel as proof that the "Evil Dead" trademark was abandoned.

Renaissance challenged that assessment in a federal lawsuit.

Raimi's company then attempted to put proceedings at a trademark trial board on hiatus pending the outcome of the civil lawsuit. Award objected, saying it was having difficulty finding legal representation to defend the claims in federal court because IP lawyers were asking for tens of thousands of dollars in retainer fees to handle the case.

Award said paying lawyers wouldn't be a problem if Renaissance hadn't interfered wtih Evil Dead 4. Until then, MacCrae's company purportedly had a multimillion-dollar financing deal with Anchor Bay, which was "destroyed" by "fraudulent claims of ownership of the rights to The Evil Dead."

Regardless, the inability to retain a lawyer in time to answer Renaissance's lawsuit paved the way for a judge's decision to grant by default a permanent injunction.

MacCrae now says he has hired a lawyer and that his company "is very definitely contesting Renaissance’s lawsuit." But the question is whether it comes too late. The fight might continue, but for now, Raimi has gained the clear advantage and succeeded in getting a court order that curtails Evil Dead 4. Meanwhile, Raimi has wrapped production on another Evil Dead film that he didn't direct but produced with others.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner