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20th Century Fox unlikely to sell rights to Firefly says EW’s James Hibberd

Friday 25 February 2011, by Webmaster

Fans launch ’Help Nathan Fillion Buy Firefly’ movement

Firefly fans have launched a Web site and Facebook page trying to rally support to help Nathan Fillion buy the rights to the canceled Fox series.

Earlier this week, Fillion told EW he’d be willing to reprise his Firefly role as Captain Mal again. Then he added: “If I got $300 million from the California Lottery, the first thing I would do is buy the rights to Firefly, make it on my own, and distribute it on the Internet.”

Well, be careful what you wish for, because Firefly fans think that’s a great idea! And they’re not the only ones…

Jose Molina, a producer on Syfy’s Haven, former Castle producer and author of two Firefly episodes tweeted Friday regarding Fillion’s comment: “For what it’s worth, I’ve told him I’d drop what I was doing and follow.”

Then Jane Espenson, writer of a Firefly episode, a producer on Battlestar Galactica and co-creator of Warehouse 13, replied to Molina: “I’m there, if needed.”

Now, there’s a couple different sentiments going on here so let’s look at each separately.

Buying the rights: $300 million wouldn’t be necessary. Terminator rights sold for about $30 million (and, as much as we love Firefly, let’s face it, Serenity was hardly T2 at the box office). Still, we’re talking a shiny chunk of change. Then the show still needs to be produced (= more money).

The only problem (well, not the only problem, but a significant one) is Firefly studio 20th Century Fox probably isn’t willing to sell the rights. The Terminator owners were bankrupt, while 20th is doing just fine and holds its properties as long-term investments (remember George Lucas talking 20th Century Fox out of the Star Wars sequel rights back in the 1970s? Yeah, they don’t fall for that anymore). One insider said he couldn’t think of a case of 20th outright selling the rights to a property.

The fan site is not accepting actual donations, just pledges (wisely), waiting to see if it can drum up enough support. Still, Fillion’s Lotto quote is probably being taken too literally. It’s one thing for the actor to say, you know, answering a reporter’s hypothetical question between takes on Castle, “if I won the lottery,” it’s another to be faced with the prospect of fans passing around the hat.

In other words: Even if fans miraculously raised millions, the studio is not likely to part with the rights to Firefly — if anything, such an act would prove to them the rights are worth keeping. However: Like all studios, 20th is generally open to new opportunities to make more money from its existing properties if given an assured path to profitability. Which brings us to…

Rebooting Firefly: This sentiment, one suspects, is more likely what the Firefly writers and most fans are responding to. And there’s few things more durable and renewable in media than a beloved sci fi brand. If all everybody who bought the Firefly DVD set during its first year of release (500,000 strong, according to one report) declared they were willing to shell out $40 in hopes of resurrecting the franchise as, say, a two-hour TV movie+DVD or something, well, you’d certainly get the studio’s attention. But that’s if the show’s very busy creator Joss Whedon and Fillion, etc. would be willing and contractually available in the first place, and that’s if the studio were on board — and those are real Ifs.

BTW: Firefly ratings back in 2002? About a 2.0 in the adult demo. Which nowadays is considered survivable even on broadcast. Not that the space-western would likely get the same numbers if on the air today when there’s so much more competition from cable, but it’s interesting to think about.