‘Dead Island’ movie rights -- Whose are they anyway?

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First comes the viral sensation, then comes the legal muddle. After the Wrap and other news outlets reported on Friday that film rights to the upcoming ‘Dead Island’ had been sold to ‘The Mummy’ producer Sean Daniel and his partner at production company Union Entertainment, along came the publisher of the video game to dispute a sale.

The Wrap report cited a long-sealed deal for movie rights to the upcoming zombie video game, the trailer for which has become an overnight Web sensation. ‘Producer Sean Daniel and Union Entertainment are sitting on the rights to one of the hottest properties on the Internet: the video game ‘Dead Island,’ ‘ the Wrap wrote. The company had been ‘tracking the game’s development for several years, and acquired rights to it in 2009,’ the story said.


But over the weekend the game’s publisher, Deep Silver, issued a press release, which first appeared on the gaming site IGN, that suggested that no deal is currently in place.

‘Deep Silver has received a massive amount of interest in the film adaptation rights to the Dead Island IP [intellectual property],’ read the statement. ‘Contrary to rumors that have been circulating, neither the film rights nor any other licenses have yet been sold by Deep Silver, which is the sole IP holder of the Dead Island brand.’

It continued with a quote from Klemens Kundratitz, CEO of Deep Silver’s parent company Koch Media, that suggested rights were very much in play. ‘We are looking for quality above all else for a movie based on Dead Island. We want to do it the right way as film realizations of games (or vice versa) usually fail to deliver what the fans were looking for. We will not go down this route with Dead Island. Deep Silver profoundly believes in the quality and value of its Dead Island IP.’

And then, in what can be read as either a nod to or swipe at Daniel (who also produced ‘The Wolf Man’), Kundratitz added, ‘We would therefore be honored to work with someone who already has a proven track record with blockbuster movies.’

Reached at his office Monday, Union Entertainment CEO Richard Leibowitz was tight-lipped. ‘It’s not something I’d like to get into,’ he replied several times, first when asked if his company and Daniel’s held the rights and then if there was a legal dispute that was ongoing. Daniel did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment. A call to Deep Silver was not immediately returned.

More as it develops.

--Steven Zeitchik


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