A Virginia judge is allowing a $900 million lawsuit prompted by the massive success of The Conjuring franchise to move forward against Warner Bros., The Hollywood Reporter reports. A trial start date has tentatively been scheduled for April 16. WB had put forth a motion to dismiss the trial, which the judge rejected.
Here’s how THR laid it all out.
The Conjuring follows real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively, in the movies. The only problem is that Gerald Brittle published a book, 1980’s The Demonologist, about the Warrens and claimed to have an agreement with WB that the studio could not develop a feature film based on his source material without his consent. According to THR, Brittle also claims “exclusive rights to use Warren case files.” Here’s where things get sticky.
Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema are accused of moving forward with the films after striking a separate deal with the Warrens. According to the lawsuit, The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2 and Annabelle are based on the Warren case files and The Demonologist. It is unclear if the recently released Annabelle: Creation is also included in the suit.
Warner Bros. countered Brittle’s claims by arguing that no individual has complete creative control over stories about real-life figures and events. For example, both Disney and Sony are currently developing live-action Mulan adaptations, which are loosely based on Chinese legend of Hua Mulan. Neither has exclusive rights to story. This argument, however, did nothing to halt the lawsuit.
“The Court declines the parties’ invitation to wade into the truth or falsity of the Warrens’ paranormal escapades or to parse the resulting similarities between the works at this stage of the case,” U.S. District Court Judge John Gibney Jr. wrote, according to THR. “This type of analysis, which bears on evidence presented and factual determinations, is better suited for summary judgment or trial.”
The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2 and Annabelle have combined to earn around $900 million at the worldwide box office. Annabelle: Creation is currently sitting at $216.8 million in its third week of release, per Box Office Mojo. The four-picture franchise has been celebrated for its story and for its surprisingly strong box office success.