OK, so the venue was Riverside, not Beverly Hills. But federal judge Stephen Larson made clear that attorney Mark Halloran, the plaintiffs expert witness, should not be testifying – at least before him – anytime soon. http://www.courthousenews.com/2009/07/14/Superman%20ruling.pdf Halloran is a co-author of the lauded “The Independent Film Producer’s Survival Guide” and a partner in the Halloran Law Corporation. Judge Larson found Halloran strained credibility by inching his testimony toward his client, saying both Halloran and defense expert John Gumpert “were notable for their lack of credibility” … and “attempted to couch or shape answers to benefit the party paying their fees.”
Hollywood will do that to you.
Still, the estimable Judge singled out Halloran. “Observing Mr. Halloran’s demeanor on the stand, his reaction to questions posed to him by both counsel, and his failure to make certain material disclosures in his expert report convinces the Court that his testimony should be afforded the least amount of weight of all who testified at trial.”
Warner Bros. won the trial, on a passed ball on a third strike. (That being they won, fair and square, but because of procedural rules rather than strict merit.) The studio was represented by Weissman Wolff; Fross Zelnick; and Patrick Perkins, who prevailed against a claim by heirs of the co-creator of Superman, as embodied in the first Superman comic book, that the studio self-dealt with its subsidiary DC Comics to their detriment. http://www.courthousenews.com/2009/07/14/Superman_Movie_Rights_Weren_t_Undervalued.htm and http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118005806.html?categoryid=13&cs=1&query=warner+bros+%26+superman. As a result, the widow and daughter of Jerome Siegel can only seek a cut of the underperforming Superman Returns from the $13.6 million earned by DC Comics, rather than what Warner Bros. earned.
The plaintiffs were represented by Mark Toberoff http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117983184.html?categoryid=13&cs=1, who seems to be seeking his own Winnie the Pooh quest.
The judge found that Toberoff failed to introduce relevant comparable evidence – relying instead on midcentury musicals (My Fair Lady and Annie) to best-selling novels (Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton and Thomas Harris) and even the NeoPets web creation. The decision also includes some juicy bites of interesting, more relevant agreements, including the rights for X-Men, Spider-Man and Iron Man.
At the end of the day, though, perhaps the final word should go to Warner Bros. chief Alan Horn, whom the judge found the most credible witness. Rights or no rights, it seems Superman is a very unhip franchise. There are no Superman properties currently under development by Warner Bros.
Goodbye Superman. There’s always Batman.