Cannes: Could Marlon Wayans Be in 'Fifty Shades' of Trouble?

Courtesy of White Spark Creative

The spoof film is generating brisk business at the Cannes film market, but will Universal find the joke so funny?

The lawyer will see you now.

Marlon Wayans' spoof film Fifty Shades of Black is generating brisk business at the Cannes film market, sparking bidding wars in several territories including Germany and Italy. But will Universal -- the studio behind the Fifty Shades of Grey box-office phenomenon -- find the joke so funny?

The film is certain to draw at the very least raised eyebrows among lawyers back in Universal City, where the studio is in the early steps of developing a sequel to Grey, which earned $570 million worldwide. After all, it’s not just the similarity in title at work. The Black poster, which was shot in Los Angeles a week before Cannes film market, hearkens the Grey ads, right down to the tagline: “Mr. Wayans will see you now…”

IM Global’s Stuart Ford, the international sales agent shopping the Marlon Wayans sendup, isn’t worried about Universal seeking to defend the trademark on its S&M romance. “The lawyers are probably drafting something as we speak,” Ford says. “I say bring it on.”

Universal declined to comment, but the studio would most likely wait for IM Global to register its title.

An insider notes that Black has yet to even register its title: "The truth is it’s well-trodden ground. Parody is perfectly permissible. Marlon has been doing this for years with the Scary Movie and Haunted House franchises. There’s not a lot to argue about legally."

There have been plenty of examples of studios fighting spoof projects, with limited success. Most recently, Lionsgate launched action against Twiharder, a parody of the Twilight films. That prompted Twiharder's Behind the Lines Productions to bring a $500 million lawsuit with allegations that the studio over-asserted its rights. As of April, Lionsgate was close to finalizing a settlement over the parody.