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Good Morning Hollywood, March 22: ‘Dragon’ Breadth

Marvel goes to court and DreamWorks goes to Wal-Mart

In this morning’s roundup of movie news ‘n’ notes from around the Web, Marvel goes to court and DreamWorks goes to Wal-Mart.
Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply report on the court battle between Marvel Entertainment and the heirs of Jack Kirby, a battle that could have profound impact on Disney as it tries to make movies about Marvel’s stable of superheroes. Could it be the tip of the iceberg, as a spate of copyright termination actions are filed over the next few years? A Stanford professor of intellectual-property law thinks so, and offers this horrifying scenario: “Any young lawyer starting out today could turn what [the Kirbys’ lawyer] is doing into a real profit center.” (The New York Times)
How to Train Your Dragon
Wal-Mart may be skittish about unrated films and parental-advisory music, but it’s certainly throwing its promotional clout behind DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon” in an effort of unprecedented breadth and scale – in fact, Wal-Mart tells the Hollywood Reporter, it’s “twice as big” as the company has ever done for a feature film before. The giant retailer will sell more than 100 movie-themed items in its stores, many of them exclusive, including “a special Happy Meal item only available at the McDonald’s restaurants inside Wal-Mart stores.” Plus they’re going to put a 40-foot Viking ship in Times Square on Monday. And they’ve just given one of their execs the task of “elevating” chosen entertainment properties, though they won’t say which other projects will meet their criteria.  Foremost among that criteria, incidentally, seems to be the ability to appeal to moms – i.e., the people who do most of the buying at Wal-Mart. DreamWorks says the enthusiasm, which started when Wal-mart saw footage a year ago, took the studio by surprise. Of course, when the world’s largest retailer gets enthusiastic, surprise turns to avid participation pretty quickly. (The Hollywood Reporter)
“My number one job as a distributor-for-hire is to run a collection agency,” writes Jeff Lipsky, who has distributed films like “My Life as a Dog” and “Stranger than Paradise,” directed “Flannel Pajamas,” battled innumerable times with the MPAA over ratings, and co-founded October Films. Lipsky is now returning to distribution – and while he’s in an arena, independent film, that only accounts for an estimated 1.5 percent of theatrical and home entertainment revenues, he points out that that tiny percentage still represents $400 million. “Tasty,” he says. But he’s cautious about recommending film festivals, worried about the dearth of great regional film critics, and dubious about the value of the trade media. Lipsky has always been something of a contrarian and a crank (just ask frequent target Jack Valenti, who probably deserved it), but his musings are worth taking seriously. (indieWIRE)
Scott Bowles surveys the great 3D debate from last week’s ShoWest, and rounds up input from across the board. “The Hangover” star Zach Galifanakis thinks it’s a stunt: “If I want to see a bird flying toward me, I’ll walk out into my yard.” “Avatar” producer Jon Landau understandably doesn’t like that that attitude: “People are treating it as a gimmick, instead of a tool.” Sarah Jessica Parker says she’s “a 2D girl,” but Katherine Heigl counters that “life is in 3D” and Sam Worthington thinks “we’re watching the industry change in front of our eyes.” In other words, the “Avatar” crowd loves 3D while lots of others are skeptical – but “Avatar” has made so much money that it’s hard to ignore what those guys have to say. One Southern theater own seems to have a pretty sensible take on the whole thing: “In the end, I think you’ll see about 25% of the screens going 3D and digital.” (USA Today)