The Weinstein Co. Sued Over Movie Rights to Stephen King's 'Children of the Corn'

Who doesn't love a good intellectual property horror story?
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'Children of the Corn' (1984)

In a lawsuit that literally dissects the difference between remakes, reboots and sequels, Donald Borchers is seeking a declaratory judgment that he — and not The Weinstein Co., Miramax nor Disney — hold film rights to work based on Stephen King's 1977 story, "Children of the Corn."

New World Pictures originally acquired adaptation rights to King's story in 1983 and then produced a cult horror film the following year.

What followed was a complicated series of transactions, one version of Children of the Corn after another and, finally, a frightening dispute over chain of title that would make even the most level-headed lawyer's head hurt.

According to the complaint, Park Avenue Entertainment obtained rights in the early 1990s and then licensed sequels or remakes of the original film to Miramax, the company founded by Bob and Harvey Weinstein. 

Several sequels did come, but Borchers alleges that Park Avenue expressly retained for itself two sequels and any elements of the original film. Another agreement in 2005 would give Miramax, at the time a division of Disney,  the right to remake Children of the Corn.

"As a result of these transactions, the rights associated with the Novella had been divided into five pieces," states the complaint.

King held onto literary rights; Fox (a successor to New World) had rights to U.S. distribution and TV remakes; and then there was something for Disney/Miramax, Park Avenue and maybe the Weinsteins, too (since they bought back some rights from Disney after their separation).

Put another way, it's all a mess. A lot of people have their hands in something that's spawned many iterations including Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror, Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return; Children of the Corn: Genesis and so on.

As for Borchers, he says he produced a television remake for Fox in 2009 and acquired rights to a graphic novel from Park Avenue last month.

"A dispute has arisen between and among Borchers and Defendants regarding the ownership of the right to produce remakes, sequels and spin-offs of the Original Film," states the complaint, putting it mildly.

Borchers believes that either the Weinsteins' rights were limited to one new version of the original film or that there was never an assignment of sequel rights after the sixth film or that the rights to make spinoffs were reserved by Park Avenue. To help guide the poor judge who is about to adjudicate this, Borchers' attorney provides examples why remakes, spinoffs and sequels are truly different things. For example, there's a quote from the Daily Express that "THE MATRIX reboot is not a remake or reboot, according to screenwriter Zac Penn — who alludes to a spin-off.” And one from The Hollywood Reporter about Suicide Squad that "... Warner Bros. has been developing a spinoff with the help of [Margot] Robbie.”

King Kong, Star Wars, John Wick and The Conjuring franchises are also mentioned.

If you think Hollywood is too in love with intellectual property and can't resist a good sequel — or is it a reboot? — then this horror story is for you. See if you can make better sense of the complaint than we did. Here it is.

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