This year’s Pet Sematary reboot was arguably something that fans weren’t pushing for, given the quality of the original 1989 adaptation of Stephen King’s book. The final product was reasonably well-received though, including feedback from King saying that he was pleased with the movie, despite pitching a happier ending. We may even see a follow-up, most likely a prequel, although nothing’s been confirmed yet. However, it now seems that Pet Sematary may have been driven by Paramount wanting to keep the rights to the property before their contract expired.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, studio thinking is currently influenced by a section of copyright law allowing a writer to claim back rights to their work after a specific period of time. In terms of the recent wave of 1980s remakes we’ve been seeing, and that are on the cards in the next few years, this may be due to the law allowing writers to retrieve their rights after 35 years. For Pet Sematary, that work was first published in 1983, with The Hollywood Reporter suggesting that Paramount were likely reacting to a termination notice from King.
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As with most legal matters, this can take several years, so it’s possible that Paramount rushed to get Pet Sematary made in order to avoid having to potentially pay a lot more for the rights. Of course, we don’t know for sure that King took advantage of this option, but the theory does support the current glut of in-development 1980s remakes, from Highlander to WarGames, to name a few. Furthermore, it seems to tie in with the Friday the 13th legal battle, while a recent expiry of the 35-year option means that the rights to A Nightmare on Elm Street are now back with the Wes Craven estate.
Whatever the reason, Stephen King adaptations remain lucrative investments, from Pet Sematary and It: Chapter Two this year, to in-development remakes of Salem’s Lot, The Tommyknockers and The Stand, to The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep. Not to mention the upcoming season second of Hulu’s Castle Rock and Shudder’s Creepshow revival, all of which will keep King and horror fans happy for years to come.