How to buy the rights to a crappy movie?
December 5, 2012 6:36 PM   Subscribe

My friend is a fan of really crappy 80s and 90s movies. I want to buy him the rights to some piece of %$&^ film. Of course, I'd prefer it had some star quality (could just be John Belushi's brother or something). How much would something like this cost? How would I go about doing it? I don't suppose that there's an ebay style auction site where you could do something like that?
posted by matkline to Media & Arts (2 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You want to buy him the rights to the movie? That's not how film works. The rights are owned by a huge corporation which is not interested in giving them up to some guy.

If we are actually talking about ownership of a film, the best you could do would be to research student films, super duper ultra indie projects, unproduced scripts, etc. and get in touch with the filmmaker's agent to see if you could snap up the rights to it. If it's a filmmaker whose career ever went anywhere, though, the answer is probably no, or it'll be ridiculously expensive. Just because there's always a chance that what started as a student short could be remade as a feature for megabucks (Tim Burton's Frankenweenie is a good example of this).

Or do you mean you just want to buy him something from one of these movies, a tangible object he can own and look at and say, "yep, that's the couch cushion from Empire Records"?

Because that's a lot easier. Your best bet for that would be to get in touch with the studio that made the movie (if it was big budget major studio), or one of the technicians involved. Like the costume designer, prop master, makeup artist if it was a sci fi thing with lots of prosthetics, folks like that. Most objects used in films get sold or trashed (or returned to a rental house) immediately after the shoot, but sometimes folks hang onto things for whatever reason. If you cast a wide enough net, you could probably get something.

Another good idea would be crew paraphernalia. Movie crews love t-shirts, hats, jackets, and stuff like that, and a lot of crew members amass collections of that sort of thing. And then, of course, time passes and you have a closet full of tote bags and hoodies and water bottles from various jobs, and you realize it's all junk. In your research of technicians to get props/costumes/etc from, you will almost certainly run into somebody who still has the crew t-shirt and would be willing to part with it for little or no money. Just because, ugh, as if I am going to wear this sweatshirt with the Sleepless In Seattle logo ever again.
posted by Sara C. at 7:03 PM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Rights? Why would you want the rights? For "bragging" rights? No, that's not how it works. It's theoretically possible to buy up the rights to an obscure movie 1) from the people who own it 2) who don't want it any more. This happens all the time within Hollywood -- say, a bad movie The Pirate Treasure and somebody wants to make sure that their brand new super story called The Pirate Treasure does not get sued because of a minor similarity. But in reality most movies have their rights tied up in various ways -- for instance, the writers own the characters, the studio owns the prints, the distributor owns the streaming license.

The only feasible way to get rights is probably to be a creator who needs to have them, e.g. for a remake or sequel. But Joe Schmo? What's he going to do with them? He's not a studio.

This really feels to me like a sort of vanity thing the way people "name" stars after a beloved grandparent or whatnot. It's not official and it's sort of pointless. So he would own "the rights". Well, he's probably not going to suddenly get the royalties that would be earned by, say, theatrical rentals. Again, these are already contractually bound to various entities, e.g. SAG contracts, producer points, that sort of thing. If there's money in that stream, even a little, why would they sign it away? (Especially the little guys, for whom this may be some of their only income, or their retirement.) No, the only actual rights to be bought would be some sort of derivative work rights, and again, your friend is just Joe Schmo.

So, yeah, if you want to please your pal go the schwag route. There are so many neat collectibles in this whole area, from movie posters to licensed toys to cardboard lobby standees.
posted by dhartung at 12:53 AM on December 7, 2012

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