A $900 million lawsuit has been filed against Warner Bros. over the chilling Conjuring franchise, and it doesn’t look like the studio will be able to just sweep it under the rug. The lawsuit itself was filed by Gerald Brittle who actually “published a book about Ed and Lorraine Warren in 1980 titled The Demonologist.” For those who don’t know, the franchise explores some of the Warren’s more spooky paranormal investigations, some of which have been transformed into blockbuster hits. Despite Warner Bros. efforts to have the suit dismissed, a judge recently decided to reject the “studio’s motion to dismiss and has tentatively scheduled a trial for April 16.”
So, why was the lawsuit filed in the first place? Well, according to Brittle, “he had an agreement with the Warrens that prohibited them from entering into a motion picture deal without his consent.” He also claims that he has “exclusive rights to use Warren case files.” The problem about all of this is that Warner Bros. and the New Line affiliate knew about his agreement with the Warrens, and went ahead with the production of the Conjuring movies anyway. In fact, Brittle accused Warner Bros. and the affiliate of entering “into deals with the Warrens beginning in the 1990s for a film based on their lives and Brittle’s book,” and also claims that in 2011, Lorraine Warren made a movie deal “and that The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2 and Annabelle are based on the Warren case files and The Demonologist.”
As a result of all this, Brittle is claiming “copyright infringement, trespass to chattels, conversion, conspiracy and more.”
In response to Brittle’s allegations, however, Warner Bros. pushed back, arguing that “no one has a monopoly to tell stories about true-life figures and events, and raising other issues including statute of limitations.” It also argued that if “the judge couldn’t find that Brittle had failed to state proper claims, the dispute should at least be moved to arbitration.”
The studio’s arguments didn’t convince U.S. District Court Judge John Gibney Jr., though. Instead of siding with Warner Bros., he wrote:
“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. This type of analysis, which bears on the evidence presented and factual determinations, is better suited for summary judgment or trial.”
So it looks like Warner Bros. has a long road of litigation ahead of them. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds, and how it will affect any future Conjuring franchise movies.