Cousins ... corporate cousins ...[Rights to Batman movies]

Did Warner Bros. Pictures pay DC for the intellectual property rights needed to make the various Batman movies? Did they have to bid like anyone else?

Or whatever, I’m aware I’m glossing over details.

I’m not entirely clear on what you’re asking, but if you’re referring to the recent Christopher Nolan Batman films, they are not licensed by Warner Bros. The movies are produced by Legendary Pictures, Syncopy (Nolan’s production co), and DC Comics itself, with Warner handling distribution and marketing.

The license is usually held by the production company, but I don’t know the specific terms of the Batman deal. Every studio in the country is drooling to license comic book characters these days, so I’m sure DC had plenty of licensees to choose from.

They aren’t just cousins. Time Warner owns both Warner Brothers and DC comics. It would be kinda silly for Time Warner to pay themselves for the rights to use a character that they already own.

They probably did pay them, yes. Which in this case means the money got switched from being in Pile A to being in Pile B.

But it’s important to do, as all the people who work for Pile B need to be paid out of Pile B’s funds. It keeps the paperwork transparent.

Heh. Hollywood keeping transparent paperwork. It is to laff. But still.

No it wouldn’t. Divisions of conglomerates pay each other for services and licensing rights all the time. It is necessary to keep the books in order and establish limits to liability.

ETA: What Maggie said.

Moved to Cafe Society, and title edited to better indicate subject.

General Questions Moderator

But the OP raises an interesting point. How much autonomy does the DC comics division and the Warner Brothers division of Time Warner have to place the interests of their division above the interests of other divisions and the corporation as a whole?

For example, suppose Sony or Viacom (two corporations with no connection to Time Warner) had made a better offer for the rights to a new Batman movie back in 2003? Could DC Comics have accepted that offer or would it have been overridden by Time Warner and told it had to accept the Legendary/Warner Bros offer? Or, going the other direction, can Warner Bros call up Time Warner and have them tell DC Comics if has to sell it the Batman rights for twenty dollars?

DC couldn’t have accepted the offer without at least the tacit approval of Time Warner. TW does not have to pay DC anything – they own the rights to the DC characters because they own DC.

In fact, the trademarks in the TESS Trademark database for Batman and Superman in media bear this out: they are owned by Time Warner, not DC. DC has no say in licensing those trademarks to others, though the do own the trademarks for the actual printed comic books.

Thus, if you want to make a movie with DC characters, you have to ask Time Warner for permission. DC is out of the picture.

That’s why I chose the term autonomy rather than independence.

At some level, every dollar of profit ends up going to Time Warner’s bottom line. But I was wondering as a functional matter, how this is handled. Is each separate division supposed to act as an independent entity (even though it really isn’t) and maximize its own profit? Or are different divisions supposed to work together as a team and sacrifice their own profits for the sake of greater profits for other divisions in the same overall corporation?

Every organization is going to make these decisions based on its individual evaluations of the relevant factors. Presumably, if X course of action is more profitable for Time Warner as a whole, it’s likely that Time Warner is going to move in that direction, regardless of whether it balances out positively for DC Comics.

And DC and Marvel Comics are in a shrinking business. They are more valuable to their corporate parents as suppliers of material for other arms of the conglomerate than they are as comic book publishers.