Mortal Kombat film producer sues Midway

Larry Kasanoff asks bankruptcy court to affirm his company's rights to fighting franchise, claims copyright on dozens of series' most famous characters.

With Midway in bankruptcy court, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has made a $33 million offer to acquire most of the company, its flagship Mortal Kombat franchise included. However, certain rights related to the ultraviolent fighting series aren't Midway's to sell, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday against the publisher.

Stop! In the name of love...

As reported by Game Politics, the suit was filed by Threshold Entertainment, the production company of Hollywood producer Larry Kasanoff. The producer alleges that he signed an agreement with Midway in 1993 that gave him a perpetual and exclusive license to make films and TV shows based on Mortal Kombat, and the suit was filed to ensure those rights aren't unduly transferred to another party in the course of Midway's bankruptcy proceeding.

While Kasanoff's original agreement with Midway does not articulate those rights in that wording, the producer claims that the combination of rights it did state explicitly amount to the same thing. The clauses pointed to by the suit are the right "to represent the Property" to develop "a feature film and television series based thereon," and the right "to be attached to such feature film or television series as the producer thereof, and to any sequel thereto."

In the suit, Threshold also contends that its rights to the series run far deeper than simply being able to make MK-based moving pictures.

"The Mortal Kombat franchise, as it stands today, is far more a creation of Threshold and Kasanoff than of Midway," the suit states. "Midway's creative input was almost entirely limited to the videogames. On their own, the videogames provided only minimal back-story and mythology, and only flat, 'stock' characters with virtually no character development. ... Threshold was responsible for transforming each of the pattern or 'stock' characters present in the underlying Mortal Kombat video game from an unprotectable idea into a fully-realized, completely-delineated and independently copyrightable expression. ... Each such character represents a separate, protectable, derivative work for which the copyright is owned by Threshold."

Threshold submitted a list of more than 50 Mortal Kombat characters for which it claimed the copyright, including Liu Kang, Sub-Zero, and Scorpion. In fact, the list included every character to appear in the games through Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (except for MKII boss character Kintaro), and a majority of Mortal Kombat 4's roster as well. The company also claimed to be in the process of making a third feature film in the series, with a script, talent, and shooting locations already in the works for the production.

After the first Mortal Kombat movie (which Kasanoff helped produce) proved to be a financial success--Threshold said the film's worldwide theatrical take was $122 million off a budget of just $25 million--the production company pumped out a number of follow-up projects in quick succession. There was a feature-film sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, the Saturday-morning cartoon Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, the TV series Mortal Kombat: Conquest, and even a touring stage show.

However, Kasanoff's filmography has not been limited to Mortal Kombat spin-offs. Among his production credits are dozens of films and TV shows, including Strange Days, True Lies, Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College, C.H.U.D. II, and the 1989 Corey Haim-Corey Feldman body-switching teen comedy Dream a Little Dream.

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Discussion

420 comments
Kleeyook
Kleeyook

This producer has started to piss me off. :(

RaiKageRyu
RaiKageRyu

Only a round of Mortal Kombat can settle this conflict. *wink

Storm_Walker
Storm_Walker

Oops, meant to say "challenged", but you knew that, sorry.

Storm_Walker
Storm_Walker

Geez, maybe Midway should sue him for putting their characters and settings into a movie and then making said movie so pathetic that a mentally challened monkey with half a brain could've made better. He had no good excuse for MK:A being so lousy after the first movie was so good.

DarkSmokeNinja
DarkSmokeNinja

MK film producer wins SUE-ALITY DOUBLE FLAWLESS VICTORY... :P

ejay_kain
ejay_kain

the first MK was good, the movies after that were lame

punisher41542o
punisher41542o

watch next he'll say he owns DC by default. this producer is pathetic!

uchihaschamp
uchihaschamp

no one likes the movies the games are better

ciprianul
ciprianul

This is just stupid! If you build something and i get to "name" it ... IT`S MINE! HANDS OFF

DastardlyD
DastardlyD

This doesn't make... a DAMN bit of sense. I mean, this is Mortal-freakin-Kombat! You don't walk up to Midway and say "we making your movies, all your character are belong to us." Like some of you have mentioned, if you waited long enough at the original arcade machine, it would go into a small bio for each of the main characters, complete with a cheesy video. I know because I was out of quarters and it was as close as I could come to being part of the experience as a kid. This producer is just trying to get a hold of some of that money before it becomes a WB property, in which he can't put out the newest MK movie, "Mortal Kombat III: We're Sorry We Killed Johnny Cage In Part II: Our Bad: We Wanted To Take The Movie In A Different Direction, But We Clearly Made An Error In Judgement There." Get outta here with that jive, Larry Ass-anoff!!! Hah, did you see that?! How I totally dumped on his last name?! Hah! Outie-5000.

Maxx_the_Slash
Maxx_the_Slash

I like that Threshold is claiming they own more of the MK characters than Midway ever did. Their reasoning being they wrote "back story" to characters that, according to Threshold, didn't have any before Threshold came along. Oh, that's right. So I guess ALL THE BIOGRAPHY SCREENSHOTS IN EACH OF THE GAMES IS JUST THERE FOR ****S AND GIGGLES?

especensor
especensor

Rofl. Any gamer surely finds this retarded. Some BS people who made the Mortal Kombat films think they own more rights to the gaming franchise than the people who made, and continue to make the video games...

buffdaddy69
buffdaddy69

" WasTeDMinD86 Posted Jul 1, 2009 11:09 am GMT Anyone remember the comics? Were they before the movies and tv shows or after? If before, Larry is just plain lying about the characters back story. If after, guess he has it. Any bets?..." Actually, if you go back and play the Original MK and MKII and you wait a little bit at the title screen, They show a Character and they go over his backstory a little bit.

buffdaddy69
buffdaddy69

The first Mortal Kombat movie was awesome. The Second Mortal Kombat movie sucked. I wouldnt even let a blind person near a TV, just so they wouldn't have to hear teh travesty known as Mortal Kombat II the Movie

starduke
starduke

Hmm, I wonder how this guy would do in a fight with Sub-Zero? "Stop! if you attack me, I'll sue you!"-Kasanoff "Hahahahaha"- Sub-Zero Then Sub-Zero does a fatality on Kasanoff, who can't sue now.

WasTeDMinD86
WasTeDMinD86

Anyone remember the comics? Were they before the movies and tv shows or after? If before, Larry is just plain lying about the characters back story. If after, guess he has it. Any bets?...

grungeman91
grungeman91

Larry Kasanoff is just like Bob Kotick, MONEY HUNGRY!!

Ronin893
Ronin893

Everybody is suing someone these days.

killeridis
killeridis

Don't touch MK old fan speaking.

MrPMPisBeefy
MrPMPisBeefy

To say "The Mortal Kombat franchise, as it stands today, is far more a creation of Threshold and Kasanoff than of Midway," is a very bold statement considering the the 1st and 2nd GAMES were released well before the movie was. Kasanoff's 2 film adaptations of the game have had a far smaller impact on the games than he would like to think. The story line was already in place prior to his retelling of it. Nice try jack*** but this one goes to Midway.

Jshaw71
Jshaw71

hmm, seems like they don;t want wb to have rights to the mk games, wb did ok with fear 2, but it wasn't as good as the first game... we'll have to see how this goes, wb may end up backing out, of the deal, we'll see...

pekumaru
pekumaru

Yeah... you can have the rights... with your bad movies and bad storylines... WTF? MK is more than mere movies!

solatron
solatron

Stupid Threshold & Kasanoff. They are really "taking advantage" of Midway when Midway is on bankruptcy's proceeding.

Glade_Gnarr
Glade_Gnarr

They don't know a damned thing about MK, they didn't even know there were storylines for every character.

paul0209
paul0209

Wow. These guys are really trying it on aren't they? Its really obvious that they don't own any rights to MK what so ever, and that only Midway does.

Quezakolt
Quezakolt

wtf. they sure as hell don't own thoses copyrights... BS

Jerian
Jerian

Sure, why not. and while they are at it lets give Uwe the rights to all the game characters hes put in his umm films.

jaredcrazy3232
jaredcrazy3232

ok yes you have rights to film and tv, but not the characters i

pycho22solid
pycho22solid

Yeah...making your crappy movies did not make the "creativity" of the MK games as they are- a group of game developers did. What an A-Hole

MasterOfSprites
MasterOfSprites

Looks like another stupid lawsuit will kill another great fighter like it did to DOA.

darklight4
darklight4

the movies sucked big time and secondly i thought the original creator(s) are the one(s) who own the product not some punk with a license

100connector
100connector

I think he's overstepping his boundaries to claim the creation of the original characters, but you have to admit that Kasanoff was able to produce (or persuade other companies to produce) a lot of film, TV, and other productions from a franchise whose popularity considerably dropped after the second game. He has the right to representation, but I don't know about IP... it'd be an interesting case to watch.

Arab-man666
Arab-man666

A retarded suite. It made some sense untill he they started babbleing about character development. The characters are completely isolated from those garbage ass movies.

BtmnHatesRbn
BtmnHatesRbn

@Petri Funding and a negative pickup deal were done via New Line Cinema, who also owned the actual license to make the movie (like how they did with Ninja Turtles five years prior to MK). New Line is a WB company, ergo, WB owns the license, with Mr. K being strange about what his contract actually reads. See my other posts that I have posted prior to this post that was just posted.

Petri87
Petri87

@g1rldraco7 - It didnt take them 16 years to file the suit. They are suing Midway in hopes of preventing the movie making licence of Mortal Kombat to end up in the hands of WB(that are trying to buy Midway now) since if it does WB will be making the movies and not Kasanoff. The reason he belives that he has some ownership of the character licences is because he feels that he has made so much backstory to the characters that they are practicly different from those in the game and thus own them completely. BTW thats just bull**** since a licence means your borrowing the concept for someone else that owns the IP. And if im not misstaken Midway can just take back the licence if they feel that its not in the best intresst of the franchise, but that might depend on the contract they wrote.

jimbo102671
jimbo102671

After reading Kasanoff's complaint as shown here, I may need an IQ test because I think it may have dropped a few points. I thought a license grants you the use of the brand, characters, locales, etc., NOT the ownership of any such things. I don't believe expanding such brand, characters, etc. through a license legally changes this, nor should it. IMO, Kasanoff is worried he's about to lose his cash cow. I say let him go. He's done more harm than good anyway.

chris_and1X
chris_and1X

sounds good i like the new about a 3rd mortal kombat movie coming up mortal kombat rocks..

avok23
avok23

Well th movies and tv show were lame and their stories were utter rubbish in comparism to the game so i wonder where he gets the idea that he helped build the character and persona of the characters. What a fool

Mr__Peanut
Mr__Peanut

The producer of Ghoulies III. (sarcastic applause)

Sablicious
Sablicious

Here's hoping for another late-night TV revival of that campy MK series. Hours of enjoyment there for the whole pissed family!

Timer88
Timer88

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation? HA!!! Kick this herb (pronounced with the H, like the name) off a cliff...*cut to earlier footage of Rain falling in to a pit, and a stage hand's arm comes up and catches him*

Gus91
Gus91

What? Did you miss part of it? They're suing now because they don't want the creative license to end up somewhere they don't want it to in the possible sale of Midway. And wtf @ crappy movies. Strange Days and True Lies were awesome :)

g1rldraco7
g1rldraco7

gee it took al this time to file a lawsuit from like 16 years ago/ I hope midway wins.

sanjeev3
sanjeev3

Hopefully the judge just says "**** off".

MrG31
MrG31

I know this is a gaming website and this guy is the bad guy, but do you have to ruin all journalistic integrity by purposely lowering this guy's reputation by adding the list of crappy films he's worked on right at the end? What does that have to do with anything?