Tomorrow will mark Friday the 13th, the 28th time that the "unlucky holiday" has arrived since the last movie in the Friday the 13th feature film series was released. To recap, the film series has been in legal limbo for many years now after screenwriter Victor Miller, who penned the script for the first movie back in 1980, filed a notice of copyright termination for the first movie's screenplay (a piece of copyright law that allows some creators to gain rights back to works after a 30 year period) and won. This triggered a slew of lawsuits, largely regarding the ownership of other pieces of the rights to the iconic horror franchise, and as a result no movies have been made since then. How's it looking now? Flip a coin apparently.
Speaking in a new interview with CNN, Sean S. Cunningham, who directed the first Friday the 13th, produced the entire series, and has been on the opposite side of Miller through all the litigation, said the odds of a new movie with Jason Voorhees making it to theaters are about even. "I think for sure it will come back," the producer said. "But I can't tell you it will come back this year or next. Will Jason come back in the theaters? Right now, it is 50-50...Both sides are really dug into foxholes. They're not going to throw any grenades, but I don't think anyone is going to call for peace talks."
Still the legal battles continue. Central to the continued arguments is the status of Jason Voorhees the killer. As fans recall, Miller's script for the first movie only featured Voorhees as a child while his mother Mrs. Pamela Voorhees was the actual one committing the murders in the film. Voorhees also famously did not wear his signature hockey mask until the third film in the series, which Miller did not write. This leaves the question up in the air, who owns the adult Jason Voorhees? Who can use the hockey mask? Did the introduction of Voorhees as a child in Miller's script leave him the option to make him an adult in his own sequels, should he choose? All this continues to be decided.
Marc Toberoff, the copyright attorney representing Miller, also spoke with CNN, saying: "Now we can license a remake, prequel or even sequel motion pictures... provided such films do not use any additional copyrightable elements...Miller now owns the copyright to his screenplay, including sequel rights, but Jason can't be portrayed as any older than in the first movie? Makes no sense. Jason was very much a presence in Miller's film. In fact, Mrs. Voorhees channeled Jason. And, of course, the first was all teed up for sequels." Toberoff noted that he and his client are now capable of creating a TV series in the vein of Twin Peaks and Bates Motel all about the community of Crystal Lake and "how Jason became who he is."
Central to the continued stalling of any movement from Miller or Cunningham is that Miller's victory granted him rights to the original Friday the 13th screenplay in the United States only. Horror, Inc, the company owned by Cunningham that has long produced the franchise, still owns all rights to the series outside of the US, meaning that any attempts by Miller to do something with the series could only be released in America, something almost no studio would be interested in doing. As it stands now the franchise remains at a standstill, but Cunningham's own quote that the odds of a new movie are 50-50 should give fans a little bit of hope.
In the time since Friday the 13th has been dormant, fellow slasher franchises Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Scream, Candyman, and more have continued to thrive in theaters, on streaming, and as a television shows. The biggest surprise of it all is that with the impending release of Halloween Ends the slasher franchise that Friday the 13th largely ripped off will arrive at its 13th feature film while Jason remains stuck in stasis at twelve movies.