MST3K IN DEPTH: The Wild World of Movie Rights

Hey pals, it’s time for another IN DEPTH update, this time looking at the thrilling and not-at-all dull world of acquiring movie rights! Check it out and let me know what you think.

patton oswalt laughing GIF


I’m actually really interested in the copyright issues! I would love to see a list of movies that can’t be done, mostly so I could stop pining and hoping that one day I might see them on MST3k. (See, e.g., SHAKMA!)


So good, thank you @Lesley! I studied intellectual property for a semester in college back in the (mumble-mutters)s, and it’s a strange combination of interesting and awful. The awful part comes in when rights-holders obstruct or hurt creative people who want to do cool things. It’s kind of a shame about the public domain… it’s not like a thing becomes demonstrably public domain. I imagine that to use a public domain film involves an exhaustive search to prove that it isn’t owned by somebody, which is going to be expensive too.


I would like to see specific examples of how much movie rights cost. I suppose making those figures public would make future negotiations harder though. Perhaps something more vague like a percentage of episode budget?


You never know, @andlorr. Properties change hands. Times change. Maybe Nicolas Cage buys a 3rd castle and gets a little more desperate for cash.


Thanks for the update! Some good stuff in there (and I’m one of those lawyer types so this is all very interesting to me at least). Looking on the bright side, at least it was only 2 of 13 films that you weren’t able to get for the new season.


I know sometimes the host segments come out of the movie, but if you can’t get broadcast rights for the Tour films, maybe a collection of the live tour host segments could appear in the Gizmoplex.


This was an interesting read. One of my favorite backwaters to dive down in looking over MST3K’s history was how Film Ventures Inc got away with re-titling stuff the way they did.

Also The Peanut Butter Solution is utterly bizarre and would be good. I saw it streaming on Night Flight, but I have a feeling given its Canadian origins negotiating a MSTied version would be a hassle and a half.


This was a really neat discussion. I’m a copyright/trademark attorney by day, so not surprised but it was cool to hear the issues described from the show’s perspective.

I think Rifftrax’s approach to syncing up a separate audio track is brilliant from a legal perspective but can understand how fans just want to watch the combined movie and riff.


Those guys played dirrrrrrrrrty.


Too bad Toho can’t take a joke. I really wish we could see good old Godzilla take on the Gizmoplex. I would like to ask them the Joker’s question - “Why so serious?”


There’s a reason RiffTrax does mostly video-on-demand titles now. It’s so much easier to just watch the movie and riffing happens.


I had a really strange idea. Maybe it could work, maybe not…

For the movie that is “too long” and can’t be edited for time- what if you do something where the movie is constantly playing on the hex as a forced picture-in-picture during the sketches/mads calls.

It could be some fun “technical glitch” that Max/Mega Cynthia is responsible for, and it gets resolved by the end of the episode?

I’d love for the mads to then riff over the closing credits, instead of the host and bots.

Idk, just throwing hamdingers at the wall and seeing what sticks.


Right? I like how Godzilla Vs. the Sea Monsterturns it into a low-key meta-joke, returned to in Space Travelers


This part of the update piqued my interest:

Blockquote One particular movie that we haven’t announced yet is a little higher rated than we usually go for. But it’s not a good movie. It’s just really well shot. It’s a well made movie, but it’s not good. We’re kind of pushing the boundaries of how good a bad movie can be, this year, and I think that’s going to excite a lot of people.”

Now I’m very, very curious as to what it is! I’m sure we’ll know it once we see the movie list. But I think this is an interesting idea. Kind of goes to the thread where we all discussed which MST3K movies we actually liked on their own.


It is really surprising that some people think that MST3K can just “do” any movie at will like that.


Really eager for that Live show future news
Difficult to see them from Ireland :joy:

Also fascinating to see how difficult even a “free” public domain movie can be
Never knew the owners could just say no to it being used


Wow, great update! Thank you @Lesley and Matt for taking the time to explain.

Someone refresh my memory, was it Roger Korman that got so bent out of shape over MST3K riffing his films? There was someone who thought it was the greatest insult to have his films riffed. Also, what are the episodes that will never get released (never say never, but it sounds like never). I’ve lost track of what got a DVD release and what hasn’t.


I’m a nerdy librarian, so this is a really fascinating update for me! Copyright is kind of adjacent to my job, so I only know enough to be dangerous but I had known movie rights was a big deal for MST creation…cool to get an inside peak at how the sausage is made.
I will forever be salty about Final Sacrifice rights getting pulled and its disappearance from basically everywhere, because I hadn’t ever gotten around to grabbing the set it was part of on DVD.


This is one of my favorite making-of reports so far! I love hearing about the details of this kind of thing, I know I’m a mutant.