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Buffy The Vampire Slayer’Buffy’ fans bemoan demise of sing-along
Sunday 14 October 2007, by Webmaster
NEW YORK - Lawyers have driven a stake into the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" sing-along.
The TV show didn’t exactly die when the show and its demon-fighting heroine went off the air three years ago. Driven by a fiercely loyal following, fans put together the sing-along event, a la "Rocky Horror Picture Show," where people turn up for midnight screenings of a musical episode of the show, often dressed up in costume as their favorite characters.
That all came to an end this week when the studio that owns the rights to the show got wind of what was going on.
Lawyers for Twentieth Century Fox Television, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., told a licensing company that had given the green light for the sing-along events that it had gone beyond limits of the show’s licensing agreements.
All future engagements of the show, including a three-night run scheduled to start Friday in St. Louis, have been canceled.
Chris Alexander, a spokesman for the studio, said that "significant payments" would have to be made to Hollywood unions for the show to be screened in movie theaters, which is a highly unusual arrangement anyway and usually reserved for situations like one-time charity events.
That came as a shock to Clinton McClung, who had organized the sing-along events. "I understand how the entertainment industry works, but I don’t understand why it has to work against me," he said.
McClung said he had sought and received a licensing arrangement from Criterion Pictures for the events, but Alexander said those permissions went beyond what Fox allowed.
The musical episode, called "Once More, With Feeling," was a departure for the show, and was written and directed by Joss Whedon, the show’s creator. It was nominated for an Emmy award.
About a year ago, McClung started to show the screenings at midnight at a theater in Boston, where he had been in charge of late-night programming, and later did the same thing at an art-house cinema in New York’s Greenwich Village.
McClung said a group of about 10 people volunteered to play various roles in the show at the New York theater and to appear onstage to lead the audience.
Now, he’s had to cancel a costume party later this month as well as about 10 shows in theaters around the country as a result of the cease-and-desist order. He said he has already taken the sing-along event to 15 other cities, where it has mainly sold out.
In St. Louis, the Tivoli theater had booked the Buffy musical sing-along for three nights, and the opening night, Friday, was sold out.
Ted Mundorff, chief operating officer of Landmark Theaters, which owns the Tivoli, said he was disappointed that fans were being caught in the middle.
"We love the program, and we love the idea, and we’re sad that we told people to come and we’re not going to be able to show it," Mundorff said.
Despite the apparently insurmountable legal problems, some fans are still hanging in.
"I refuse to give up hope," said Caroline O’Connor, a 25-year-old massage therapy student in New York who appeared onstage as Willow, Buffy’s best friend, and as Sweet, a demon character. "I look at it as a paperwork problem."
That’s not how Fox sees it.
"We have to protect our interests, and that’s what we’re doing," says Alexander. "There are plenty of legal ways for fans to enjoy Buffy, but this particular event is not going to be possible at this time."