'Hellraiser' Writer Reclaiming U.S. Franchise Rights After Lawsuit Settlement

Hellraiser - Photofest still - H 2020
New World Pictures / Photofest

Clive Barker, who wrote and directed the 1987 horror flick Hellraiser, has successfully leveraged copyright law to recapture the American rights to the franchise. On Monday, his attorney filed papers in California federal court confirming a settlement with Park Avenue Entertainment, the production company that's currently enjoying rights to a film about a woman under the sway of a resurrected former lover.

Under the termination provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976, authors may recapture rights from publishers after waiting a prescribed period (usually 35 years for newer works) and sending a notice within a five-year window. Barker did so, but met resistance from Larry Kuppin, the producer who had once purchased New World Pictures from Roger Corman. New World had released the horror movie, and according to a lawsuit that came in June, told Barker in correspondence that he couldn't terminate because the terms of the original movie contract were to be construed under U.K. contract law.

The legal dispute thus seemed primed to explore what happens when the original rights assignment happens in a foreign jurisdiction plus there is a somewhat complicated chain of title (although here it appears as though Barker sent a notice of termination to the single-purpose vehicle he had once personally co-founded), but the parties have come to a deal. The judge has now been presented with a proposed consent judgment that states that Barker will recapture U.S. rights Dec. 19, 2021. No word on which side will take foreign rights.

The resolution stands in contrast to the situation over Friday the 13th, where a judge ruled in favor of the writer against the producer but the case is still pending an appeal. Given the statutory clock, Barker isn't the only writer from the 1980s attempting to grab back franchise rights.