Court Denies Bid To Delay ‘The Blackening’ Release, Says Copyright Suit Plaintiffs Failed To Make Case Against Lionsgate Pic

Court Denies Bid To Delay ‘The Blackening’ Release, Says Copyright Suit Plaintiffs Failed To Make Case Against Lionsgate Pic

June 16, 2023

The Blackening will go on. A California judge today denied a request for a temporary restraining order to delay the horror comedy’s release after saying the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Lionsgate failed to make their case.

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In her ruling (read it here), United States District Court for the Central District of California, Judge Dale S. Fischer of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California said Zahara Ariel and Jaryah Bobo “have not demonstrated any substantial likelihood of success on the merits.” They were trying to block today’s release of the pic, claiming that it infringes on their copyrights a screenplay, Southern Education, and a card game called Black Card Revoked.

“Plaintiffs present little to no detail regarding either the game or the screenplay, and there is no reason to believe that the expression of ideas in either has been copied in the making of the film,” Fischer wrote. “Left without any details of the expression of ideas in Plaintiffs’ game and screenplay, Plaintiffs’ motion is based purely on the concept of using questions on cards to test a person’s ‘“’Blackness.’”’ But an idea or concept, rather than the expression of that idea or concept, cannot be protected by copyright.”

The judge acknowledged that The Blackening indeed does have a norror-comedy element where the testing of “Blackness” is done by a killer who chooses victims based on their ability to answer the questions, as does the Southern Education script. But, she ruled, “that aspect of the ‘Blackness’ questioning was present in a comedy sketch created by some of the Defendants prior to the creation of Southern Education. Thus, this additional similarity provides little to no support for Plaintiffs’ position.”

The film, which opens today via Lionsgate, is based on a Comedy Central short. 

Fischer added that “Plaintiffs have also not shown any significant likelihood of irreparable harm” and “have not established that any of the relevant factors favor an injunction.”

In The Blackening, which premiered at Toronto last year, a Juneteenth getaway reunites a group of old friends in a cabin in the woods. Searching around after the lights go out, the pals stumble across The Blackening, a creepy-looking board game. Things turn ugly when the voice of a twisted killer on a TV reveals that one of their entourage is tied up, and if they refuse to play the game, she’ll die.

Grace Byers, Jermaine Fowler, Melvin Gregg, X Mayo, Dewayne Perkins, Antoinette Robertson, Sinqua Walls, star with Jay Pharoah, and Yvonne Orji in the pic. Tim Story directs from a script by Tracy Oliver & Dewayne Perkins, who also scripted the short.

The is eyeing a $6 million-$8 million opening weekend after making about $900,000 in Thursday previews. Lionsgate acquired domestic rights to the MRC-financed pic for about $5 million in the weeks after its TIFF bow.

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