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The R & H Rights Thread

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#1 of 12 OFFLINE   Jo_C


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Posted October 29 2005 - 09:26 AM

I think I've harped on this so much that it's time to make this subject into its own thread and set the record straight, and I invite those of you to correct me if I am wrong. R & H initiated their own film distribution/production system when they planned to make the film versions of "Oklahoma!" and "South Pacific". Their company was called Magna Film Distribution, which is why these two films were made independent from the studio(s) that have distributed them in some form over the years. Magna themselves was responsible for the distribution of the original roadshow versions of the two films (which is why you see the Magna credit on some prints). Once "Oklahoma!" went into wide release, they enlisted RKO Radio Pictures to handle its distribution (we're talking about the 70MM Todd-AO version here). At that time, RKO was beginning to fold as a production/distribution unit. When the alternate CinemaScope version went into release, Magna/R&H licensed 20th Century Fox to distribute. As for "South Pacific", Magna too handled distribution of the original 70MM version, while Fox handled the 35MM release (when you saw either the Fox credit or the Goldwyn credit [we'll explain Goldwyn's part in all of this in a moment], you knew that this was a 35MM reduction print). "South Pacific" was originally released in a version longer than what you currently see in the general release version, and, as I understand, that longer roadshow version is under restoration at the moment. Now, to explain how CBS came into the picture...at the dawn of the home video era, CBS joined with MGM to create the venture MGM/CBS Home Video (though under license with the newly created CBS Video). The video rights to "SP" and "O!", purchased from the R & H estates, began with CBS under the old CBS Video company. Enter the Samuel Goldwyn Company, in the late 1980s, which purchased most of the R & H material produced independently. As it turned out, Goldwyn only reissued to theatres "O!", in both 70MM Todd-AO and 35MM CinemaScope versions. Because of the CBS deal, Goldwyn was unable to acquire the video rights, which is why you do not see Goldwyn's logo on the video boxes of recent video releases of "SP" and "O!". In 1996, the Goldwyn company was purchased by MGM, so now it is MGM that is responsible for the theatrical and television distribution of these films. Which brings us to the rights issues confusion. One of the R & H films in the MGM holdings is "Flower Drum Song", or at least in terms of theatrical and television distribution. Universal still holds the video rights, and also renewed its copyright, so technically speaking "FDS" is still a Universal Picture, if not on video. As for "South Pacific", its copyright was renewed not by the R & H estates, but by 20th Century-Fox. MGM also owns the rights to the 1965 television version of "Cinderella", even though (in another twist of irony) CBS owns the copyright. More confusion, folks...MGM was recently sold to a venture headed by Sony Pictures Entertainment...calling Grover Crisp! So why does Fox still own the video rights to "O!" and "SP"? Simple...as a result of the prior licensing deal with CBS, which is why you still see the CBS/Fox imprint on video releases of "SP" and "O!". All this, of course, is not counting the film versions of "State Fair", "Carousel", "The King And I" (the original live-action version, not the WB animated remake), and "The Sound Of Music", that was produced outright by Fox, and is therefore owned outright by Fox. Any questions, class?

#2 of 12 OFFLINE   Jeff Adkins

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Posted October 29 2005 - 03:20 PM

So, shouldn't that belong to Paramount now instead of Fox?? If it was truly owned by CBS/Viacom (like "I Love Lucy"), then I would think Fox would no longer have any rights.

I'm confused....but then again I'm still confused to this day how Warner managed to get the DVD rights to My Fair Lady (which is owned by CBS).

#3 of 12 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted October 29 2005 - 04:05 PM

You can see a lot of MGM/CBS videos from before 1982. I have a CED (www.cedmagic.com) of The Wizard of Oz from MGM/CBS Video.

#4 of 12 OFFLINE   Ken Horowitz

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Posted October 29 2005 - 11:21 PM

In this case, "My Fair Lady" is actually owned by CBS. Not only the movie, though -- CBS actually owns a portion of the underlying musical play. Every time a high school or community theatre group presents "My Fair Lady", some portion of the proceeds/royalties end up back at CBS. (The movie was produced by Warner Bros, but their contract with CBS stated that all rights to the finished film would revert to CBS after 7 years.)

After Bob Harris and Jim Katz did the restoration on MFL in 1994, CBS needed to arrange for a theatrical run prior to the video release. Because they had an existing relationship with Fox via CBS/Fox, a deal was negotiated with Fox (though CBS did have conversations with several other studios). Through the existing venture, Fox handled the VHS and laserdisc distribution.

When DVD arrived on the scene, CBS was able to negotiate a separate deal for distribution of MFL on DVD. That's when Warner Video came into the picture. This was before Viacom/Paramount bought CBS (decades earlier, Viacom had been spun out of CBS, so now the various rights and libraries were recombined).

#5 of 12 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted October 30 2005 - 01:15 AM

I always wondered why WHV had DVD rights, while the current VHS is from Paramount.

#6 of 12 OFFLINE   AlanP


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Posted October 30 2005 - 01:18 AM

SO, where is the DVD of "FLOWER DRUM SONG" ?? Mired in legal quicksand ?? What is the hold up of this film, we are almost TEN years into DVD, and NO "FLOWER DRUM SONG" ??? BIZARRE !!!!!!! All of the others have been released almost TWICE ??? WHAT GIVES ?? So, whom is releasing this GEM and WHEN or EVER ??????????

#7 of 12 OFFLINE   Joe Caps

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Posted October 30 2005 - 05:17 AM

I have been told that there IS a current rights problem with Flower Drum Song and it's in the middle of some negotiations.

#8 of 12 OFFLINE   AlanP


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Posted October 31 2005 - 12:33 AM

Is the rights problem with RELEASE rights ?? FOX or UNIVERSAL or WARNERS or MGM ?? Thanks, for the UPDATE !!!!!!!!!!!

#9 of 12 OFFLINE   Roger Rollins

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Posted October 31 2005 - 02:30 AM

Jo_C, I think you've got some of your info right, but not all of it... The copyright to SOUTH PACIFIC was registered in the name of SOUTH PACIFIC ENTERPRISES, and was renewed in 1986 by the same entity. Fox never had the copyright to the film, and never renewed it. Their production department was heavily involved, but they never copyrighted it or owned it. It is my understanding that the R&H Organization did not sell OKLAHOMA or SOUTH PACIFIC to The Samuel Goldwyn Company outright, but merely licensed these properties to them. I believe the same is the case with the 1965 CINDERELLA TV production.

#10 of 12 OFFLINE   Jo_C


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Posted October 31 2005 - 03:28 AM

Well, this is a case where you are wrong. Look at the back cover to Fox' latest DVD edition of SOUTH PACIFIC. It confirms that Fox is the copyright holder. Yes, all Fox has in common with SP other than its copyright is its early theatrical and current home video distribution.

#11 of 12 OFFLINE   Conrad_SSS


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Posted October 31 2005 - 08:25 AM

Mr. Rollins is correct about SOUTH PACIFIC's copyright.

Check out the copyright office's website at www.loc.gov

Meanwhile, here's the listing confirming that 20th Century-Fox is not the copyright holder. Maybe they just made a packaging error. It certainly wouldn't be the first time!


14. Registration Number: RE-310-573
Title: South Pacific. By aSouth Pacific Enterprises, Inc.
Claimant: acDorothy F. Rodgers and acLawrence B. Buttenwieser, as executors
of the Estate of Richard Rodgers & acDorothy B. Hammerstein,

acWilliam Hammerstein, and acPhilip Zimet, as executors of the

Estate of Oscar Hammerstein II (PWH)

Effective Registration Date: 21Nov86
Original Registration Date: 19Mar58;
Original Registration Number: LP13570.
Original Class: L
Claim Limit: NEW MATTER: the entire motion picture, other than those portions thereof
consisting of or based upon the bk., music, and lyrics of the dramatico-

musical play entitled South Pacific, incl. all changes made in said bk.,

music and lyrics ....

#12 of 12 OFFLINE   John Whittle

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Posted November 01 2005 - 07:46 AM

The copyright must appear on the work itself (the new law does not require a notice but this was made under the old notice requirement). A notice on the box or package would refer to the that "work" and not the contents. A copyright also has underlying rights (book, music, etc) and those can be held by other entities or partnerships such as the case of MFL and CBS. BTW the MFL score was "published" by Metromedia Music and was sold (back when I was with Metromedia) to New York Times Music so it gets more and more complicated when you start into "rights" on a title and chain of title search. John

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