The contract that the studio made with author Mario Puzo over The Godfather movies can’t be torn up by his estate, a New York judge ruled (read it here) Wednesday. That means Paramount, who released the original Godfather film in 1972 and its subsequent sequels, can make more movies about the Corleone clan if it wants to. However, that doesn’t mean this legal battle is over. “Not immediately before the Court in the instant motion -and therefore not decided in this opinion -is the underlying question of whether the Estate or Paramount owns the book publishing rights to any sequels to The Godfather. The Court denies Paramount’s motion to the dismiss (sic) the Estate’s breach of contract counterclaim,” wrote Judge Alison Nathan.
In February of this year Paramount sued the Puzo estate to stop the publication of an “unauthorized” third Godfather sequel/prequel. In its suit, the studio claimed the book blemished the legacy of the films. In March, the estate countersued, claiming that the contract between Puzo and Paramount distinctly excluded book rights. The countersuit claimed that Paramount is in material breach of its contract with Mario Puzo. The two sides came to a deal in May to allow the publication of new The Family Corleone while the case went on. After Wednesday’s order by the judge, the next stage in the standoff between the studio and the Puzo heirs is a status conference hearing for early January next year. G. Robert Gage Jr. and William Fleming of Gage Spencer & Fleming and Richard Kendall and Nicholas Daum of Kendall Brill & Klieger are representing Paramount. The Puzo estate is represented by Bert Fields of Los Angeles’ Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger and Molly Shulman of Boies Schiller & Flexner