News and Analysis: The Rights to the Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise Have Returned to Wes Craven's Estate

For most of Wes Craven's career, the beloved horror maestro was pretty vocally frustrated with the lousy business dealings that deprived him of control of, or significant royalties from, his most popular franchise. He was still a relatively new-to-the-mainstream filmmaker when he made the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, having made a handful of well-loved indies (Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, Deadly Blessing) and a couple TV movies, but lacking the clout to secure a really good deal with New Line. The film was a massive success, and the boatloads of money that New Line got from it elevated them from a minor start-up studio to a major Hollywood contender (studio head Robert Shaye always referred to the studio as "the house that Freddy built"), but due to the restrictive terms of the contract he signed, Craven did not get very much of that money, and held no control over the future of the franchise - two facts that he was not shy about voicing his frustration over. That's why he only participated in one of the main-franchise sequels (unsurprisingly the best of the bunch, Dream Warriors), why the only other Freddy film he directed, New Nightmare, was a very personal postmodern satire about him being haunted and terrorized by the monster he created, and why the opening scene of Scream features Drew Barrymore talking about how all the Elm Street sequels sucked.

But now, 35 years after the original film's release and four years after Craven's death, the rights to the franchise have finally returned to Wes Craven's estate. Sadly it is too late for Craven himself to enjoy this victory or possibly helm another Elm Street film, but it does have a few great implications. For one, it's a decisive legal fact; there will be no messy legal battle over who actually has claim to the intellectual property, like the one that currently has the Friday the 13th series in legal limbo. For another, this *might* mean (depending on the state of the distribution rights for the past films, and whether the notoriously licensing-shy Warner Bros still holds them) that we could finally see really good special edition blu-rays of the films. They are currently relegated to a very lazy, merely acceptable box-set collection of double-feature discs with minimal extras, while only the original has the kind of very nice special edition that all of the movies deserve. Possibly this rights change could be a step in the right direction towards a company like Arrow Video or Scream Factory doing the series justice, along the lines of Arrow's Hellraiser Scarlet Box or Scream's Halloween: The Complete Collection.

But most of all, this news means that new Elm Street movies could happen under the control of Wes Craven's family, who would surely be much more respectful to his vision for the series and his standard of quality than lesser series entries like Freddy's Revenge, Dream Child, Freddy's Dead, and the remake were. Or on the other side of that coin, it means that sequels/reboots that Craven would not approve of are much more unlikely to happen. Robert Englund has said that he has maybe one more Elm Street movie in him; could we possibly get another postmodern meta-sequel to New Nightmare, maybe even commenting on the whole reboot craze, or a passing-of-the-torch film where Englund hands off the role? Or he has also expressed interest in handing off the role to an actor he thinks could play the part well, having specifically thrown Kevin Bacon's name out there. While the awful remake left a bad taste in the mouths of most fans, a recast sequel/reboot wouldn't be so bad if it was cast with Englund's approval, and made with the approval of the Craven estate. This news could mean some, all, or none of these things - only time will tell - but it at the very least is clear that the Nightmare on Elm Street series is at last in good hands.

- Christopher S. Jordan

We have nightmares about you not sharing this article!