Linda Hamilton (“Sarah Connor”) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (“T-800”) return in their iconic roles in Terminator: Dark Fate, directed by Tim Miller (Deadpool) and produced by visionary filmmaker James Cameron and David Ellison.
The Terminator co-writer Gale Anne Hurd has filed to terminate a decades-old copyright grant, potentially blocking any sequels to Terminator: Dark Fate from moving forward. In the years since Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines hit theaters in 2003, the franchise has tried and failed to launch another movie trilogy on two separate occasions (first with Terminator Salvation in 2009, then Terminator: Genisys in 2015). As such, Paramount is hoping third time’s the charm with November’s Dark Fate, a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgement that, yes, aims to kick-off a whole new trilogy of films.
So far, the outlook towards Dark Fate has been (for many, surprisingly) hopeful. The sequel even brings Terminator co-creator James Cameron back as a producer, with Linda Hamilton reprising her iconic role as Sarah Connor (for the first time since Terminator 2) opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800, and a set of series newcomers who could potentially carry the torch on from here. But in an unexpected twist, it seems Dark Fate’s efforts to launch another trilogy could be in trouble for reasons that have nothing to do with its box office performance.
According to THR, Hurd is pushing to end a copyright grant made 35 years ago, when the original Terminator movie (which she co-wrote and produced) was released. If it happens, it could end current Terminator IP owner Skydance Media’s right to produce more Terminator films, beginning in November 2020. This would prevent the studio and Paramount from pressing ahead with a new trilogy, even in the event that Dark Fate is a commercial success.
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As THR breaks down in their report, The Terminator is far from the only ’80s brand facing a rights dispute at the moment. Indeed, the authors, families, or estates behind ’80s hits like Die Hard, Predator, and Beetlejuice (among others) are also currently pushing to take back the rights to these IPs. It’s all the result of a law that Congress passed during the 1970s, allowing authors to reclaim the film rights to their books from studios after a few decades. The provision has mostly been used by musicians to reclaim the rights to their work so far, but THR reports that multiple screenwriters are actively tapping into it. As a result, several major Hollywood studios could be on the verge of losing their most famous ’80s properties.
Of course, even if that happens, the studios would still be able to sit down and negotiate a new deal with the creators of these brands. In the case of The Terminator, Skydance would have to renegotiate with both Hurd and Cameron (who split owernship rights) in order to move forward with a Dark Fate sequel and beyond. Obviously, though, this will be impacted by a combination of Dark Fate’s critical response and financial turnout later this year. If the film is a bust on either or both fronts, Skydance could simply cancel its trilogy plans and lay the Terminator franchise to rest until further notice. For now, everyone will just have to wait and see what happens when Dark Fate arrives at the top of next month.