The upcoming sequel to Frank Capra's classic Christmas film It's a Wonderful Life could be blocked by Paramount Pictures, which owns the copyright to the 1946 film.
The studio acquired Spelling Entertainment and its Republic Pictures subsidiary, which owned the rights to the original 1939 story "The Greatest Gift," in 1998.
Paramount said that Hummingbird Productions and Star Partners have not obtained sequel rights to the movie.
"No project relating to 'It's a Wonderful Life' can proceed without a license from Paramount," a Paramount spokesman said. "To date, these individuals have not obtained any of the necessary rights, and we would take all appropriate steps to protect those rights."
The film's producer, Bob Farnsworth, told Variety that the producers have a "clear" claim to the sequel rights.
"We have spent a lot of time, money and research that leads us to believe that we are clear on any infractions of the copyright," Farnsworth said. "If anyone feels that have a legal claim, we will be happy to talk with them. I believe that whatever resolution needs to be made will be made amicably, in the positive spirit of the project."
The sequel, called It's a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story, will focus on the unlikeable grandson of George Bailey (who is also named George Bailey). Karolyn Grimes, who played George's daughter, Zuzu, in the original, has agreed to play an angel who shows George what the world would be like if he had never been born.
"The new film will retain the feeling of the original, and it simply must be shared. I've probably read close to 20 scripts over the years suggesting a sequel to 'It's a Wonderful Life,' but none of them were any good," Grimes said. "The script by Bob Farnsworth and Martha Bolton was wonderful, and I wanted to be involved with his version of the film immediately."