It was bound to happen eventually – after years of releasing low-budget knockoffs designed to cash in on the name recognition of big-budget Hollywood releases, the guys over at the Asylum have finally suffered a legal setback.
A few months back we reported that Warner Bros. was filing a court case against the studio over its upcoming release Age of the Hobbits (click the link for all the details). The studio feared the low-budget film (which has nothing to do with Tolkien’s creatures, as far as we can tell) would confuse consumers – and that they might be duped into buying the Asylum’s film thinking they were getting Peter Jackson’s new blockbuster. A judge has agreed -- and slapped a restraining order on Age of the Hobbits – essentially banning it from release until after a hearing is scheduled for the end of January.
The idea of taking a popular film, changing the title slightly, and releasing it in the same window as the blockbuster it’s tied to has been the Asylum’s signature move for years. From Transmorphers to Paranormal Entity to Battle of Los Angeles, the company has eked out an existence by flaunting ties to bigger films. That might have to change now.
Other studios have threatened legal action over the knockoffs in the past (including Fox for The Day the Earth Stopped and Universal over American Battleship), but the parties usually reach some sort of out-of-court settlement. Not so this time around.
Warner Bros. is obviously crowing about its victory – and have released the following statement:
This victory underscores the importance of protecting the unique work of our industry’s creative community from companies like Asylum, whose cynical business model is designed to profit from the work of others. Their intent to create confusion in the marketplace on the eve of release of ‘The Hobbit,’ one of the most anticipated films of the year, has met with defeat.
We won’t know for sure what this all means for the studio moving forward, but we suspect the Asylum guys will figure out a new way to release their films while staying just on the right side of copyright law. Watch the trailer below.