Today's Hollywood Reporter has a story about the development of a new Buffy The Vampire Slayer feature film. It wouldn't be a sequel to the utterly terrible 1993 Kristy Swanson film, nor would it have any connection to the fantastic series that ran on UPN and the WB from 1997-2003... and here's the real rub, folks.
Buffy" creator Joss Whedon isn't involved and it's not set up at a studio, but Roy Lee and Doug Davison of Vertigo Entertainment are working with original movie director Fran Rubel Kuzui and her husband, Kaz Kuzui, on what is being labeled a remake or relaunch, but not a sequel or prequel.
While Whedon is the person most associated with "Buffy," Kuzui and her Kuzui Enterprises have held onto the rights since the beginning, when she discovered the "Buffy" script from then-unknown Whedon. She developed the script while her husband put together the financing to make the 1992 movie, which was released by Fox.
...The new "Buffy" film, however, would have no connection to the TV series, nor would it use popular supporting characters like Angel, Willow, Xander or Spike.
...The parties are meeting with writers and hearing takes, and later will look for a home for the project. The producers do not rule out Whedon's involvement but have not yet reached out to him.
Say what? They "don't rule out Whedon's involvement but have not yet reached out to him?" Geez, the guy is only the creator and the man who shepharded the series to the phenomenom it is today. This is the guy with legions of loyal and insanely devoted fans. Granted, they don't seem to be turning out for Dollhouse, but they can make quiet a rumbling in the blogosphere. (Exhibit A: the phemonom of Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog.)
My gut says that if they want any chance of pulling in the hard-core Slayer fans, they'll have to get Whedon's blessing somehow. I can also see fans being ticked that supporting this reboot might kill any chance of a Buffy feature film with the TV cast (though let's face it - that was a long shot.) As a fan, I think this sucks.
But the Kuzuis have every right to do this. They own the rights on the movie and they licensed the show to TV. As I understand it, Whedon had right of first refusal on any sequels and TV shows - which is how he ended up running the show in the first place. Apparently, the producers went to him, expecting he would pass on it. Clearly they're not obligated to go to him in a legal sense, and he wouldn't be the first creator pushed out of his franchise by producers.
I think not using the characters from TV might have less to do with respecting that continuity and more to do with how the rights to those particular characters are tied up. If the Kuzuis only own the movie they might not be able to acknowledge anything unique to the series. Or I suppose it's possible that they might own the movie characters outright, but that ownership of the TV elements is divided among different producers - which could force a sharing of the profits with those players if Xander, Willow, Giles, et al, were involved. It's hard to say for sure without seeing the actual deals.
I'm sure Whedon is entitled to a share of the profits, but I'm also sure that he'd much rather have full creative control. At the time he made that deal, though, he was a nobody and no one ever anticipated it would be the cult hit it became.
Let this be a lesson to future screenwriters - if you sign away your rights, this is the risk you take.