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What the Paramount/Puzo lawsuit could mean for the future of The Godfather franchise

09.04.2012

There are some franchises that go beyond just film. In recent memory, we have the HARRY POTTER universe that has left film and page and ventured into every conceivable item. If it can be sold, it likely has a lightning bolt or round glasses plastered to it. Marketing across platforms and media has become the norm. This does not exclude the most lauded movies, either.

We have seen THE GODFATHER influence a myriad of films, television shows, novels, and even video games. Most people hold the films by Francis Ford Coppola to a different standard than the novel by Mario Puzo. But, it all starts with the story. That being the case, Hollywood is no longer content to re-release the same movies on home video periodically with new features. They need to remake or die.

The family of the late Mario Puzo had been trying to publish a novel that follows Vito Corleone's early life during the Depression entitled THE FAMILY CORLEONE. Some would say this was a cash grab, but there had already been two other novels commissioned by Random House that followed the events of THE GODFATHER. Neither was great but they existed solely as a way for Paramount to pave the way for a possible theatrical sequel. Now that the Puzo family commissioned their own novel, Paramount was not too happy.

Citing breach of a 1969 contract in which Puzo sold all rights to THE GODFATHER to Paramount for $50,000, the studio is trying to stop Puzo's estate from gaining any profit from the prequel. In return, Puzo's family is suing Paramount to block any future films related to THE GODFATHER. In the end, Paramount has made over a billion dollars off of the Corleone family.

With a judgement expected soon, this lawsuit could go one of two ways. Either Paramount retains their rights and will be free to film more films in THE GODFATHER series, or the rights will be given back to Puzo's family (they would return the $50,000 to Paramount and regain control of the rights which are now worth over $100 million). If Puzo's family gets the rights, they could shop them to other studios and make their own sequels.

Either way, this seems like a loss for movie fans. Both sides want to make money off of THE GODFATHER and are more concerned with profit rather than putting out a quality product. After THE GODFATHER III, many doubted anything positive would come from the franchise being continued. The video games have been pretty good and allow an interactive experience without sullying the film franchise in any way.

I am a firm believer in the sanctity of movies. There should be lines drawn where movies should not have sequels. If anything, unless the original filmmakers are involved, you should never invoke an original film. RAGING BULL II was a prime example. You are free to continue a story or reinterpret it in a unique way, but don't tread on the classics just for money.

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