EXCLUSIVE: There may be some awkward moments at the world premiere for the supernatural thriller The Conjuring tonight at LA Film Fest. I’ve learned that one of the movie’s producers, Tony DeRosa-Grund, and the studio behind it, New Line, are heading to arbitration over the TV rights to the project. Make that the TV rights to the title of the project.
The Conjuring is inspired by Ed and Lorraine Warren, experts in paranormal activities, who investigated the spirits — both friendly and sinister — who allegedly inhabited the Rhode Island farmhouse of the Perron family. Texas-based DeRosa-Grund had been looking to turn the story into a movie for more tan two decades. After Ed played to him a tape from the case, he wrote a treatment and titled the project The Conjuring. DeRosa-Grund eventually teamed with producer Peter Safran, who brought in writers Chad and Carey Hayes. DeRosa-Grund and Safran took the pitch out in 2009, landing at Summit in a bidding war for mid- against high-six figures but the deal stalled. The project then moved to New Line, changed its name to The Warren Files before reverting to its original name. James Wan was tapped to direct a cast led by Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston.
Meanwhile, DeRosa-Grund retained the TV and other rights, including comic books, to the property and recently pitched a Conjuring TV series for Lionsgate TV, which bought it. However, as the movie was gaining momentum with strong pre-release tracking, I hear New Line threatened legal action against DeRosa-Grund and Lionsgate for using the title for a TV series. I hear New Line’s argument was that the studio got the title The Conjuring for the movie and since it is coming out first, they should be able to block anything else with that title. I hear in its efforts to control the title, New Line is applying pressure on DeRosa-Grund to scrap the series plans, and the two sides are now headed to arbitration. There is no date set yet, but the filing has been made and New Line and DeRosa-Grund are expected to sit down with a negotiator in the fall.
The dispute raises a very interesting question about what exactly constitutes owning the rights to a property for a particular media. In TV, title is key for selling source material, like a book, movie or a series. If you are selling the TV rights to a well known property but not the title, what exactly are you selling?