You didn’t think that the road to making The Hobbit would be easy, did you? Things just don’t work that way. The Tolkien estate is suing New Line, claiming that the studio didn’t pay them their cut of the gross profits for the huge megablockbuster Lord of the Rings films. Does this sound familiar? It should – it seems like New Line just tried to not pay out to anybody with this one. Hollywood accounting at its finest!
The estate and Harper Collins publishers filed suit in Los Angeles today, seeking the 7.5 percent of gross profits they were promised; the suit asks for 150 million in compensatory damages, an unspecified amount in punitive damages and – this is the kicker – the ability to sever any rights that New Line has to make movies based on Tolkien’s work. That could mean the end of The Hobbit movie (if the Tolkien estate is stupid, that is. What it really means is that they’ll use the threat of termination to negotiate themselves a heftier chunk of the profits next time).
“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.”
It’s astonishing that big corporations act like this. Not even a penny? That’s fucking ridiculous, and I can’t imagine that they’ll even be able to hide behind the mathematical gymnastics that Paramount tried to use to prove that Coming to America was a money loser when Art Buchwald sued them. This is the sort of scumbaggery that wears down any decent person trying to make it in Hollywood. It also effects people like me.
Make no mistake, this shit will get sorted out – New Line cannot afford to NOT make The Hobbit, and unless the Tolkien estate can wrangle Peter Jackson et al away to a new studio*, they’d be throwing away hundreds of millions more by shutting down the two Hobbit movies.
*and considering Jackson’s history with New Line, maybe they can!