New Dick Tracy Special with Warren Beatty premieres tonight

As some movie buffs may know, Warren Beatty has held onto the rights to Dick Tracy since the feature film he directed, produced and starred in was released… in 1990 (he bought the rights in 1985). Attempts were made in the following years to develop a sequel, but after none ever happened, Tribune Publishing (the company that owns Dick Tracy’s comic rights) filed a lawsuit against Beatty to get them back. As a means of preserving the rights to the character amid the legal battle, Beatty produced a “Dick Tracy specialwhich aired exactly once on Turner Classic Movies, enough for a judge to rule that it met Beatty’s demands to retain the rights. Now it looks like he’s doing it again.

A listing for tonight, Friday, February 10, revealed that another Dick Tracy Special is airing on TCM. The special, titled “Dick Tracy Special: Tracy Zooms In,” airs on TCM at 10:30 p.m. Polygon, the special not only features TCM host Ben Mankiewicz and film critic Leonard Maltin (who appeared in the first Special, where he interviewed Beatty as the character), but also sees Beatty appear as himself AND as Dick Tracy. Beatty (as Tracy) apparently even talks to Beatty (as himself), making a meta-joke about Beatty retaining the rights to the character.

Beatty working so hard to keep the rights to the character, putting out a TV special eighteen years later, and then another fifteen years later, seems like a lot of work for a movie sequel that may not happen. As fans may recall, many of the movie rights contracts stipulate that projects using the characters must be made within a certain time frame or they will return. Before 20th Century Fox was absorbed by The Walt Disney Company, it was forced to reboot the company Fantastic four with the 2015 feature film or they’ll lose those rights to Marvel and the MCU. As we know, that movie was made, but an attempt to reboot Daredevil at Fox failed, sending the character back and paving the way for Marvel’s Daredevil series on Netflix.

As for Dick Tracy and Warren Beatty, it remains to be seen if this latest special is anything other than a stunt to hold the rights. Now that Beatty is 85 years old and has only starred in two films in the entire 21st century, the prospect of Dick Tracy 2 finally being made seems…unlikely. Check back here in 15 years for the next Dick Tracy special when Beatty is 100.

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