'Twilight' Parody Trailer & Lionsgate/Summit $500 Million Lawsuit

Twilight parody Twiharder John Gearries Christopher Sean'Twiharder' poster with John Gearries, Tanya Zoeller and Christopher Sean.

Twilight parody $500-million lawsuit against Lionsgate Pictures and Summit Entertainment: Serious business

Twiharder, not the son of Twilight and Die Harder but just Another Twilight Parody, reportedly had a planned late 2012 release date to coincide with the release of Lionsgate Pictures / Summit Entertainment's own The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, the final installment in the Twilight movie franchise. But at the time, Summit / Lionsgate felt it would be unhealthy to have Kristen Stewart (as Bella Swan-Cullen), Robert Pattinson (as Edward Cullen), and Taylor Lautner (as Jacob Black) fighting off not only the mean-spirited Volturi, but also micro-budget parodists. As a result, a cease-and-desist letter was sent to the Twiharder producers at Between the Lines Prods.

But never say Die, Twiharder, Die! Like Dracula risen from the grave, they're back – at a less-Hollywood-friendly New York federal court, too, bringing with them a 219-page complaint and a demand for $500 million in damages from Lionsgate / Summit, whom they accuse of “anti-competitive” practices and abuse of intellectual property law, claiming that the Hollywood studio's cease-and-desist letter scared off potential distributors.

Twilight parody vs. Twilight: Fair Use Doctrine

According to EW, the lawsuit asserts that Twiharder clearly falls under the Fair Use Doctrine, which protects the rights of “independent filmmakers, parodists and other 'counter-cultural' artists who create separate or derivative works that may be related to, inspired by or comment upon the pop culture events that dominate the national Cineplex and, by extension the attitudes, perspectives and behaviors of the populace.”

And whether you love and/or hate Twilight and any or all of those associated with the literary / film series, you can't deny that the Stephenie Meyer-created romantic-fantasy tales have become a worldwide cultural phenomenon.

There's more to the Twiharder lawsuit: Between the Lines Prods. accuses Lionsgate / Summit of registering trademarks for more than a dozen Twilight-related names, “thereby multiplying the universe of potential infringers exponentially.” They claim that the studio's intent is “to utilize the 'tentpole' model as a leveraging mechanism to prop up a full-scale, 360-degree IP monopoly in which all the statutory rights granted by the Copyright Act simply become interchangeable with (and/or subsumed by) the statutory privileges granted by the Trademark Act.”

In other words, if you manage to get Fair Use Doctrine protection to create a Twilight-related work, you may still be infringing on Lionsgate / Summit's Trademark rights.

Recent The Hobbit precedent

Although Lionsgate / Summit may have been inspired by the Walt Disney Studios, which ferociously (and according to some, unjustly and unfairly) guards its properties, there have been other such fights in the past.

In fact, as recently as last December, Warner Bros. succeeded in halting the direct-to-DVD release of Joseph J. Lawson's parody Age of the Hobbits, claiming that it would have (very stupid?) people mixing it up with Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which hit the world's screens at that time. The key issue here was the name “Hobbit”; hence, Age of the Hobbits is now known as Clash of the Empires. (See also: “Disney Mickey Mouse Rights Questioned.”)

Of course, if lawsuit comes to counterlawsuit, Lionsgate and Summit – especially following Gary Ross / Jennifer Lawrence's The Hunger Games and Breaking Dawn - Part 2 – have enough cash to buy out the entire U.S. Justice System. The studio's fiscal 2013 revenue, for instance, topped $2.71 billion.

But things will likely not reach that far. After all, the Twilight movie franchise is a thing of the past; even if Twiharder finds any DVD distributors willing to make the parody available, it could have an even tougher time finding an audience than M. Night Shyamalan / Will Smith's After Earth.

And it remains to be seen whether or not Lionsgate / Summit will be willing to hand out any sort of compensation to Between the Lines Prods. Having said that, one thing is for certain: The $500-million lawsuit against the studio has brought infinitely more attention to Twiharder than it would have enjoyed merely by coming out at the same time as Breaking Dawn - Part 2.

Twilight parody Twiharder John Gearries Tanya Zoeller'Twiharder' with John Gearries and Tanya Zoeller.

'Twilight' parody trailer: 'Twiharder'

Say what you will about the productions values found in (or missing from) the Twiharder clip below, but you must admit that in the first scene leading lady Tanya Zoeller does a really good imitation of Kristen Stewart's voice and mannerisms (e.g., lip-biting). And I gotta admit that I found kinda kinky-funny watching Christopher Sean's use of his abs to stop the bleeding on the forehead of Zoeller's Stella Pond. Edward Cullen parodist John Gearries, for his part, does a pretty good imitation of John Gilbert in His Glorious Night, repeating “I love you” ad nauseam.

Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's Singin' in the Rain, by the way, had Kelly parodying John Gilbert in that early talkie. Now, why didn't anyone try to stop them? Well, a key reason is that the Singin' in the Rain production company, MGM, also owned the rights to His Glorious Night. Now, check out the Twiharder trailer below.

Twilight movie parodies

Twiharder was directed by Giorgio Caridi, from a screenplay by leading men John Gearries (The Young and the Restless) and Christopher Sean (The Bold and the Brave). Both Gearries and Sean also executive-produced the film, using funds out of their own pockets.

“A big role model for Chris and I is Jon Favreau,” John Gearries explains in a Twiharder Yahoo.com Q&A. “We looked at what he did with Swingers and decided to do something along those lines as a production company. We want to make a cult following and build up from there. I mean look at Space Balls, that movie still has a cult following.”

Previous Twilight parodies include Craig Moss' direct-to-DVD Breaking Wind (2012), featuring Heather Ann Davis, Eric Callero, and Frank Pacheco; and Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer's Vampires Suck (2010), featuring Jenn Proske as Becca Crane, Matt Lanter as Edward Sullen, and Chris Riggi as Jacob White.

Somewhat surprisingly, the $20 million-budgeted Vampires Suck bit a not-unimpressive $80.54 million chunk out of the worldwide box office. In Germany, for instance, Vampires Suck was a bigger box office hit than Chris Columbus / Logan Lerman's Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief and Jason Reitman / George Clooney's Up in the Air.

Twilight directors and cast

The Twilight franchise was adapted by one screenwriter, Melissa Rosenberg, but had various directors: Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight), Chris Weitz (New Moon), David Slade (Eclipse), and Bill Condon (Breaking Dawn - Part 1, Breaking Dawn - Part 2).

Besides Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner, the Twilight movie franchise cast includes, among regulars and “guest” actors, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Billy Burke, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Maggie Grace, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Graham Greene, Ashley Greene (no connection to Graham), Nikki Reed, Cam Gigandet, Rachelle Lefevre, Bryce Dallas Howard, Xavier Samuel, MyAnna Buring, Booboo Stewart, Mackenzie Foy, Mia Meastro, J.D. Pardo, and Rami Malek.

Vampires Suck box office figures via Boxofficemojo.com.

John Gearries and Tanya Zoeller in Twilight parody Twiharder screengrab: Between the Lines Prods.

John Gearries, Tanya Zoeller, Christopher Sean in Twiharder poster: Between the Lines Prods.

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1 Comment to 'Twilight' Parody Trailer & Lionsgate/Summit $500 Million Lawsuit

  1. praxis

    Umm… No, I just found out about this 2 years later! Nobody noticed, parodies have a short window!