On Tuesday, I received an invitation to a special Wednesday screening in San Francisco of the forthcoming Paramount film, Iron Man, which opens officially on Friday.
This actually was the second invitation I had received to a screening--the first was for a Tuesday night showing that I was, sadly, unable to attend in the end. And it was looking a whole lot like the Wednesday one wouldn't work either.
But now I'm thinking I may have to work extra hard to make it.
That's because I read this evening that after TechCrunch announced Tuesday that it was buying out a theater in San Francisco to host a private screening of the film, it subsequently received a cease and desist letter from Marvel Comics, demanding that it cancel the planned exhibition.
According to TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington's post, Marvel attorney David Althoff wrote to order the screening be canceled because, "You have not been authorized to exhibit, sell tickets to, nor invite the public to an Iron Man screening."
Now, it's well known that CNET News.com and Arrington/TechCrunch have not always been on the best of terms, but I have to say that, based on my understanding of this situation, Marvel is way, way out of line here. And I just have to object. Loudly.
Arrington wrote that TechCrunch worked directly with Paramount in setting up the screening and paid for each of the seats in the theater.
So, what is Marvel's problem? This is the same company, by the way, that back in 2004 sued video game publisher NCSoft for creating an environment that allowed players of its City of Heroes virtual world to craft avatars that could look like Marvel characters.
The two companies, and while the terms were never made public, everyone knows that Marvel got it butt handed to it in the resolution.
Now, for some reason that makes very little sense, and is only going to bring it a round of very bad PR--Yes, thank you, I'm helping with that--it is trying to shut down what seems, on the surface at least, to be a perfectly legitimate showing of a film. One that has the apparent cooperation of the studio that made it and the theater that's showing it.
Arrington, by the way, noted in an update to his original post about this that Marvel's rationale for shutting the screening down had something to do with--wait for it--"public safety."
So, knowing that fur may well fly and that lawyers may bare their, er, briefs, I just think that I have to be there.
Stay tuned on this one.