Bankrupt Tribune Co. Seeks Salvation In Depression-Era Comic Strip Character

The Tribune Co. has found a hero to rescue it from impending oblivion: Dick Tracy! They just have to break him out of Warren Beatty's basement.

Tribune asked a bankruptcy judge yesterday to rule that its subsidiary Tribune Media Services owns the TV and film rights to the 78-year-old Dick Tracy franchise, despite the fact that Warren Beatty says he owns it. The dispute is ludicrously byzantine, but Tribune is essentially accusing Beatty, who had acquired the rights from Tribune in 1985 so he could make a terrible, terrible movie with his girlfriend Madonna, of setting up a fake TV production to keep them from reverting to Tribune.

According to the agreement, Tribune could seek reversion of the rights granted to Beatty if, within five years of the movie's release, he had not begun principal photography on another feature film or television series or special. The agreement allowed Tribune to serve notice to Beatty after five years, giving him two more years to begin principal photography on another project. Beatty claims...that he began principal photography on a television special in November, and that Tribune is thus precluded from trying to effect a reversion of the rights. Tribune...claimed in its bankruptcy filing that Beatty has failed to prove that photography on the TV special has begun, and that a $15,000 check he sent to Tribune as payment for the half-four special was just a sham attempt to retain the rights to Dick Tracy. Tribune returned the check.

According to Tribune, Beatty's attempt to hang on to Dick Tracy—presumably for another feature film, presumably not starring Beatty in the lead—has "effectively locked away certain motion picture and television rights to the Dick Tracy Property from such productive and profitable uses, to the tremendous detriment" of the company.

Jeez, TribCo. We know fifteen grand used to be chump change to you, but is a bankrupt company really in a position to be returning checks? Also, he's a little bit of a buttoned up character for Tribune Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams' "CASUAL STYLE."