Jason Universe: Larry Zerner shares assessment of what’s going on with the Friday the 13th franchise

Entertainment lawyer (and Friday the 13th Part III cast member) Larry Zerner on Friday the 13th, Crystal Lake, and Jason Universe

Friday the 13th

Back on Halloween of 2022, it was announced that original Friday the 13th screenwriter Victor Miller – fresh off winning the U.S. copyright to the 1980 film after a lawsuit that stretched on for years – was teaming up with his lawyer Marc Toberoff, franchise rights holder Rob Barsamian of Horror Inc., production company A24, the Peacock streaming service, and showrunner Bryan Fuller (whose credits include Hannibal and Pushing Daisies) to develop a new Friday the 13th streaming series called Crystal Lake. The project seemed to be on track to start filming this summer… but then, earlier this month, we learned that Fuller was booted from the project because A24 wanted to go in a “different direction.” While we wait to see what’s going to happen with Crystal Lake, Horror Inc. announced they’re launching the Jason Universe, which will consist of “new Friday the 13th activations that will span a wide range of platforms from entertainment, games, immersive experiences, merchandise and more to be announced throughout 2024 via @JasonUniverse13 on social media or by visiting the official Jason Universe website.” Now entertainment lawyer Larry Zerner (who also played Jason victim Shelly in Friday the 13th Part III) has weighed in with his assessment of what’s going on with the Friday the 13th franchise.

Zerner wrote on X, “Here’s my take on what’s going on with the Friday the 13th rights. A lot of this is just guesswork on my part based on my knowledge of the parties and the rights, so take everything with a large grain of salt: After Victor Miller won the lawsuit, the rights were divided among Victor, who owns the rights to the original movie and any characters in the original movie (including Jason), but only in the United States, and Horror Inc., which owns the rights to all of the other movies and the rights to the original movie outside of the United States. Horror Inc. is owned by Robert Barsamian. Sean Cunningham may be somewhat involved, but it’s really Horror Inc.

Horror Inc. and Victor then made a deal to combine their rights, which allows them to make anything they want. However, because Victor really only owns the rights to the first movie, their deal probably says that if they make things based on characters from the first movie, then Victor will be paid more money then if they make something based on characters or elements from other movies. So, I’m guessing that is why Victor and Horror Inc. made a deal to first do a remake of the first movie, which is why they are starting with the Crystal Lake television series and not jumping into movies with the adult Jason.

Another wrinkle is while the rights to the characters are owned by Horror Inc. and Victor, the right to the Friday the 13th title is owned by New Line Cinema. Because New Line owns the F13 trademark, if Horror Inc. and Victor were going to release a movie (or TV show) called Friday the 13th they would have to cut New Line in on the action, which is apparently something they don’t want to do (at least right now). That leads to the announcement of the “Jason Universe” which states that Horror Inc. and Victor will be releasing all sorts of Jason related IP (games, action figures, books), but no movies at this time, and nothing under the F13 banner.

Rights are complicated. These rights are a mess. While I (and probably most of the fans) just want to have more F13 movies with Jason slashing away, the rights holders are trying to milk things another way. IMHO, this strategy has just not worked out. It has now been 15 years since the last F13 movie! There was a lot of money to be made if everyone would just split the pie but it appears that instead, all the parties are holding out for a larger share, even though this is probably not the best use of the IP. Time will tell how things will work out. I just hope that everyone can get this together and we can get new movies with Jason in the near future. We’ve all been waiting a long time.

As Zerner mentioned, Crystal Lake is intended to be, at least partially, an expanded prequel to / remake of the original Friday the 13th film. Scream writer Kevin Williamson, who was going to be contributing an hour-long chase episode to the show’s first season, said Fuller’s script for the pilot episode was “so beautifully realized. A gorgeous portrait of a mother unraveling in her grief. Not to mention bloody horrific!Cube director Vincenzo Natali said Fuller’s vision for the series was a “Hannibal-level reinvention that was simultaneously beautiful, sad, poetic, funny and horrifying.” Although it would start with the story of Mrs. Voorhees avenging the drowning death of her son Jason, it would continue on with the story of Jason as well. The plan was that we would see “many familiar manifestations of Jason” throughout the series.

Now that Larry Zerner has broken the possibilities down for us, what do you think of the status of Crystal Lake and the Friday the 13th franchise? Are you looking forward to the Jason Universe announcements? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Friday the 13th Part 2

Source: Larry Zerner

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.