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Warner Bros. nabs Mortal Kombat maker for $33m

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Warner Bros. has walked away with most of Mortal Kombat maker Midway Games for the cut-rate price of $33 million (£20m).

The deal gives the US movie studio rights to the majority of Midway's intellectual property, including Mortal Kombat, Rampage, Spy Hunter, and Joust.

A Delaware bankruptcy court judge approved a settlement deal last week, saying objections against the sale had been resolved.

Warner Bros. was the only firm to submit a formal bid for the debt-ridden game company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February. Exceptions to the fire-sale are Midway's San Diego and New Castle studios. If buyers can't be found for the two studios within 60 days, the company plans to shut them down.

Although nobody else was interested in bidding, several companies had filed objections to the sale, asserting their own claims to the intellectual property being sold.

Among them was the Hollywood production company Threshold Entertainment, which produced — among other things — two full-length feature films, a direct-to-video animated special, made-for-TV movies, a Saturday morning animated series, and a live stage show based on the Mortal Kombat universe.

"Threshold was responsible for transforming each of the pattern or 'stock' characters present in the underlying Mortal Kombat video game from an unprotectable idea into a fully-realized, completely-delineated and independently copyrightable expression," the company's June 24 court filing stated. "Over the course of years, Threshold in effect brought these characters 'to life' by developing their mannerisms, costume, story, abilities and personality...for which the copyright is owned by Threshold."

Another objector was Tigon Studios, a production company founded by action star Vin Diesel. Midway and Tigon had jointly produced a driving game called The Wheelman, released early this year. Yet another was the consumer brand product conglomerate Unilever, which was concerned over a prior agreement to place advertisements for AXE body sprays and deodorants in a future Midway game.

The judge said objections have been resolved, clearing the way for approval.

Midway filed for bankruptcy this summer after its majority shareholder, media mogul Sumner Redstone, sold off his controlling 87.2 per cent stake in the company to private investor Mark Thomas for only $100,000 along with the assumption of $70m of Midway's debt. ®

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