Releasing rather quietly into theaters last summer, James Wan's modestly budgeted horror film The Conjuring took theaters by storm. A critical as well as commercial hit, Conjuring made over $318 million worldwide on a production budget of only $20 million. With a mood and style recalling classics of the genre like The Haunting and The Amityville Horror, the demonic possession tale proved to be the exact thing audiences were looking for after a decade largely filled with splatter flicks like Saw and Hostel. Not that those films don't have their place, but sometimes one needs a break from bone-cracking, skull-splitting gore.
A Conjuring spinoff (based on Annabelle, the creepy demonic doll from the film's prologue) was quickly greenlit, as was a proper sequel starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The former has already started filming. Unfortunately, Warner Bros. may have to put those plans on hold for the foreseeable future - that is, if producer Tony DeRosa-Grund's Evergreen Media Group has its way.
Grund has filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. on behalf of Evergreen, alleging that Warners has acted in bad faith and is refusing to honor its profit sharing agreements with the company. Evergreen held the rights to adapt the Warrens' case files for the big and small screens, and licensed them to Warners in exchange for a set purchase price for each theatrical feature and 5% profit sharing. Warners also agreed to employ DeRosa-Grund as an executive producer on all Warren-related projects.
For their part, Warner Bros. is denying any wrongdoing and are alleging that DeRosa-Grund improperly tried to get a Conjuring TV series produced with Lionsgate, despite Warner Bros.' exclusively licensed rights to the property. DeRosa-Grund asserts that Warners' rights only apply to theatrical productions, and that the studio improperly interfered in Evergreen's dealings with Lionsgate, causing the TV project to become stuck in development hell.
Of course, movie fans are unlikely to spend too much time caring about all that legal minutiae and are probably wondering what the bottom line here is. Well, if DeRosa-Grund wins the case, there is a very real possibility that neither Annabelle nor Conjuring 2 will see the light of day.
That said, it's doubtful that will happen. DeRosa-Grund just seems to want the money he feels he is owed, and if his claims are true, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In turn, Warners realizes it stands to make piles of money from future Conjuring films, and may opt to settle the case out of court in the end, allowing Annabelle's production to continue.
In the meantime, horror fans everywhere will wait and hope that this issue gets resolved soon so the real burning question can be addressed: If James Wan isn't coming back, who's going to step into the director's chair for The Conjuring 2?
The Conjuring 2 is (currently) scheduled to hit theaters on October 23, 2015. Annabelle will hit theaters on October 3, 2014.