New Line have just solved one lawsuit with director Peter Jackson regarding the profits for The Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Rings, and now they are faced with another. Variety are reporting that the Tolkien estate, a British charity called The Tolkien Trust, and original Lord of the Rings publisher HarperCollins, are suing New Line, seeking more than $150 million in compensatory damages, unspecified punitive damages and a court order giving the Tolkien estate the right to terminate any rights New Line may have to make films based on other works by the author, including The Hobbit. The lawsuit claims that New Line was required to pay 7.5% of the gross from the Lord Of The Rings trilogy to the estate…but haven’t. 7.5% may not seem much but considering the trilogy has earned a massive $6 billion worldwide, 7.5% is a LOT!
The trustees’ UK lawyer, Steven Maier, of Manches LLP, said:
“The Tolkien trustees do not file lawsuits lightly, and have tried unsuccessfully to resolve their claims out of court. But in this case, New Line has left them no option at all. New Line has not paid the plaintiffs even one penny of its contractual share of gross receipts despite the billions of dollars of gross revenue generated by these wildly successful motion pictures. To make matters worse, to date New Line has even prevented the plaintiffs from auditing the last two films of the series. The trustees are very aggrieved by New Line’s arrogance.”
Bonnie Eskenazi, the trustees’ US counsel who filed the complaint, said,
“New Line has brought new meaning to the phrase ‘creative accounting.’ I cannot imagine how on earth New Line will argue to a jury that these films could gross literally billions of dollars, and yet the creator’s heirs, who are entitled to a share of gross receipts, don’t get a penny.”
If the estate win the case and New Lines rights for The Hobbit are terminated, then that will leave the movies in a bit of a mess. I am with the Tolkein estate, as New Line have been a bit sneaky with money in the past, which was the reason Peter Jackson filled a lawsuit against them. However, there are millions of people out there that want to see The Hobbit brought into the big screen. Things have been looking good recently with Peter Jackson finally coming on board and rumours of Guillermo del Toro taking the directorial role. For New Line to lose the rights now would be, in a word, crap!
The first film is currently planned for 2010, with the second in 2011, with filming hopefully beginning next year.