Warren Beatty sues Tribune over Dick Tracy rights

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Warren Beatty has sued a unit of Tribune Co over the film and television rights to comic strip detective Dick Tracy, a character he played in a 1990 hit film of the same name.

The suit, made public on Friday, was filed in Los Angeles federal court and seeks to prevent Tribune from taking the movie and TV rights away from Beatty, who has held them since 1985.

Beatty used the rights to make “Dick Tracy,” which earned more than $160 million at worldwide box offices in 1990.

Under the original agreement between Beatty and Tribune, the rights would revert to Tribune if “a certain period of time” lapsed without Beatty having produced another Dick Tracy movie, TV series or TV special, according to court papers.

The suit said Tribune sent Beatty a letter on November 17, 2006, that gave him two years to begin production on Dick Tracy programing. Beatty began a Dick Tracy TV special on November 8 this year, the lawsuit said, and gave Tribune written notice.

“Tribune responded by asserting that it still had the right to terminate Beatty’s Tracy Rights and effect a reversion, and purported to do so,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Beatty’s work on the Dick Tracy TV special precludes Tribune from taking back the rights to the property.

Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman declined to comment on the suit.

Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Vicki Allen