Warren Beatty prevails in Dick Tracy lawsuit

Annette Bening, best actress nominee for her role in "The Kids Are All Right", and husband Warren Beatty arrive at the 83rd Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, February 27, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California judge has ruled in favor of actor Warren Beatty in a legal dispute with Tribune Media Services over the right to make movies and TV shows using the comic book crime fighter Dick Tracy.

U.S. District Court Judge Dean D. Pregerson granted Beatty’s request for a summary judgment on Thursday in the long-running dispute over the character Beatty portrayed in his 1990 film, “Dick Tracy,” which earned more than $160 million at global box offices.

Beatty had sued Tribune Media, a unit of Tribune Co., back in 2008, claiming Tribune acted wrongly in trying to retrieve the character’s rights, which it had assigned to Beatty.

Under the original 1985 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.

Tribune sent Beatty a letter on Nov. 17, 2006, that gave him two years to begin production on Dick Tracy programming. Beatty said he began a Dick Tracy TV special on Nov. 8, 2008, and gave Tribune written notice.

But Tribune responded by asserting that it still had the right to terminate Beatty’s rights, which sparked Beatty’s lawsuit. Tribune later filed its own countersuit seeking summary judgment in his favor.

In his written order, Judge Pregerson writes that “Beatty’s commencement of principal photography of his television special on November 8, 2008 was sufficient for him to retain the Dick Tracy rights.”

Editing by Jill Serjeant