The Day the Buffy Music Died

20th Century Fox pulls the plug on sing-along theatrical screenings of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Once More, with Feeling," saying the distributor that licensed the deal had overstepped the studio's agreements

By Natalie Finn Oct 13, 2007 12:59 AMTags

Fox's legal department saw the light, and now the Buffy the Vampire Slayer sing-along has turned to dust.

After learning that fans of the canceled cult favorite have been, horror of horrors, demonstrating their undying love for the show by attending theatrical screenings of the Emmy-nominated musical episode "Once More, with Feeling" for the past year, 20th Century Fox's attorneys started sharpening their stakes.

The studio, which owns the rights to the former WB (then UPN) dramedy, red-lighted the dress-up and sing-along tour this week, canceling all future screenings—including a three-night run scheduled to kick off tonight in St. Louis at the Tivoli theater, which had already sold out for Friday's show.

Instead, the Landmark-owned spot will host three free screenings of Serenity, the feature-film spawn of another beloved Joss Whedon creation, the short-lived sci-fi drama Firefly.

"Notice for this was very sudden and unexpected, and I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience it will cause," event founder Clinton McClung announced on the Buffy Musical Website.

"Basically, the idea of presenting television shows in a theatre is so new that there are a lot of details that still need to be resolved around payments of residuals, deals with the guilds and unions, etc. (I don’t know any specifics, but these are some of the issues that usually come up). Both Fox and Criterion [Pictures] need to fix some of these issues before they can continue to do any theatrical screenings."

20th Century Fox spokesman Chris Alexander said that "significant payments" would be owed to the unions to compensate for the screenings, adding that TV shows rarely are shown on the big screen anyway except under special circumstances, like charity events.

"We have to protect our interests, and that's what we're doing," Alexander said. "There are plenty of legal ways for fans to enjoy Buffy, but this particular event is not going to be possible at this time."

Criterion is the theatrical distributor for Fox's back catalog of television shows and the outfit with which McClung says he made the appropriate licensing deal, to make the venture "completely legit." (20th Century Fox, however, has informed Criterion that it overstepped the bounds of the show's licensing agreements by signing off on the deal.)

The Brooklyn-based film programmer told New York Magazine's Website on Thursday that he hadn't yet received anything in writing from Fox or Criterion, but that the studio is apparently laying down the law with regard to all screenings of their TV material.

But the hard-core Buffy fans out there who are all dressed up like the Slayer, Giles, Xander, Willow and Spike and now have nowhere to sing their hearts out surely aren't going to go quietly into that good night.

In fact, the scorned fans' feelings might be summed up by this one message board post by Jessa Boudreauxon on "Please don't take our joy."

An online petition to save the Buffy Musical posted by McClung on Wednesday currently has 1,534 signatures.

The last show was Sunday in San Diego. In 2007, "Once More, with Feeling," a sixth-season episode in which a demon has turned Sunnydale into a musically emoting machine, touched down in U.S. cities ranging from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Bangor, Maine. Hawaii and returns to L.A. and New York were in the works.

Once the ticket has been bought and the makeup applied, attendees are handed a goody bag replete with bubble soap, champagne bottle-shaped party poppers, vampire teeth and a list of rules—namely, sing.

"We might be a victim of our own success," McClung told NY Magazine. "We've toured around the country for a year and gotten a lot of press. I think the issue is something to do with the back-end— someone who is supposed to get paid when these things get screened wasn't, and they heard about my show, and got upset."

In the meantime, fans can sink their fangs into Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8, Whedon's U.K.-set comic book series that picks up about a year and a half after Sunnydale turned into a large smoking crater.

The first issue debuted in March and immediately sold out. Whedon, who penned the first five issues and then picked up again with number 10, originally planned a 22-episode/issue run, but kept coming up with new plot devices and now might produce as many as 50.

Or more.

"Joss will write something in one panel that will suggest a new direction and we‘re able to go with it. That will keep the story fresh," series editor Scott Allie told the comics Website Newsarama in March.

"He has a planned ending, and certain beats he needs to hit along the series, but it will be flexible.The series has lots of wiggle room. Still, there is a threat that will build throughout the series that will come to a climax at the end."

Issue number eight, "No Future for You, Part 3," is scheduled to start flying off the shelves Nov. 7.