Monday, February 11, 2008

LOTR lawsuit or How greed is ruining our chances to see a great version of the Hobbit, my precious...

New Line cinemas is in big trouble for sitting like the dragon Smaug, on the big pile of cash that they made on the three Lord of the Rings movies. According to their license agreements they were to pay 7.5% of profits -- but in a Mordor-like fashion they have never paid more than the original deposit of 62K at the start of the project, even though the films grossed billions world wide. (All three are in the top 25 highest grossing films of all time domestically.)

According to ABC news:
The estate of "Lord of the Rings" creator J.R.R. Tolkien is suing the film studio that released the trilogy based on his books, claiming the company hasn't paid it a penny from the estimated $6 billion the films have grossed worldwide.

The suit, filed Monday, claims New Line was required to pay 7.5 percent of gross receipts to Tolkien's estate and other plaintiffs, who contend they only received an upfront payment of $62,500 for the three movies before production began.

The real rub in all this is that until the issue is resolved, the trust is pulling the plug on future projects -- which right now means that my beloved Hobbit might never get made.
...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."

Such an order would scuttle plans by New Line to make a two-film prequel based on "The Hobbit." "Rings" trilogy director Peter Jackson has already signed on to serve as executive producer on the project...

The Tolkien trustees do not file lawsuits lightly, and have tried unsuccessfully to resolve their claims out of court," Steven Maier, an attorney for the Tolkien estate based in Britain, said in a statement. "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.

This kind of stuff kills me. You agreed and now you are not paying for someone's creative work. I know JRR is not around anymore, but the deal with the estate was signed and sealed. I can't imagine what justification New Line could give for sitting on the big ole pile of gold this way. Will it take The Battle of 5 Armies to get this settled, while the rest of us watch the Lonely Mountain in sadness?

Get it together boys and girls. We fans are counting on you.