Tolkien Estate Sues New Line, The Hobbit Not Yet Threatened

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Tolkien Estate Sues New Line, The Hobbit Not Yet Threatened

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

It may not be del Toro, or anyone:

Tolkien Estate Sues New Line Cinema
LOS ANGELES (AP) — 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 failed to pay a cut of gross profits for the blockbuster films.

The writer's estate, a British charity dubbed The Tolkien Trust, and original "Lord of the Rings" publisher HarperCollins filed the lawsuit against New Line Cinema on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The lawsuit claims New Line was required to pay 7.5 percent of gross receipts from the films to Tolkien's estate and the other plaintiffs. A call to a spokesman for New Line, a unit of Time Warner Inc., was not immediately returned.

The films — 2001's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," 2002's "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," and 2003's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" — have reaped nearly $6 billion combined worldwide, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs seek 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."

Such an order would scuttle plans New Line has in the works 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, which is tentatively slated to begin production next year, with releases planned for 2010 and 2011.

"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."

Maier also claims the film studio has blocked the Tolkien estate and the other plaintiffs from auditing the receipts of the last two films.
Last edited by Voronwë the Faithful on Tue Nov 25, 2008 1:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by solicitr »

WOW!!!!

I had no idea old JRRT was canny enough to hold out for a front-end deal. I knew there was a theoretical percentage on top of the upfront cash, but always believed it was back-end: i.e. a cut of net profits, which no Hollywood movie in history has ever made (at least according to studio bookkeepers).
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

That assumes that this story is accurate, which I don't know. But it is pretty shocking news, for sure.

I wonder on what basis they are arguing that they are entitled to an order giving them the right to block further films?
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Post by solicitr »

Well, the story quotes Stephen Maier, who is indeed the Estate's British lawyer. It has to be legit.

Blocking further films: well, it could be viewed as an estoppel based on prior bad faith; or since the case sounds in contract they could be asserting breach-of-the-essence and therefore nullification.

OK, Hall Flamers- who lives near the courthouse and can get a copy of the Complaint?

EDIT: That's Los Angeles Superior Court.
Last edited by solicitr on Tue Feb 12, 2008 12:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Primula Baggins »

Whoa. :shock: If this turns out to have any validity, New Line's legal department really, really dropped the ball. I will be really curious to hear what the claim is based on. If the deal with Tolkien said such a thing, why did no one notice? Isn't that what lawyers are for (in part :P )—to notice things like that?
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Post by solicitr »

Apparently they did notice, Prim: the story reports that the Estate's lawyers have been negotiating for years, with no success.

Let's see:
Jackson had to sue New Line for his cut
Saul Zaentz had to sue New Line for his cut
The actors had to sue New Line for their cut
..anyone see a pattern?
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Post by nerdanel »

Need to see the Complaint. Gah, the Los Angeles Superior Court charges to search recent filings. Hopefully some news organization or blogger will post it for us for free.
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Post by vison »

What is this charity called "The Tolkien Trust"? What does it do?
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Post by Alatar »

Interesting news. Hopefully a fat paycheque will smooth the waters... Nobody's gonna let this one slip away.
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Post by solicitr »

The Tolkien Trust is the charitable arm of the Tolkien Estate. It owns most of JRRT's copyrights, and gives the income philanthropically to a list of worthy causes as long as your arm, including but not limited to

Doctors Without Borders
Famine Action
The Simon Wiesenthal Center
Asylum Welcome
Landmine Action
The Woodland Trust
Womankind (equal rights and female-owned businesses in developing countries)
World Wildlife Foundation
Forced Migration Review
Create (fine arts for poor children)
University of Manitoba Medical School
Who Cares?
Mind (rights and independent living support for the mentally ill and handicapped).
Story Museum
Oxford Literary Festival
The Porch Stepping Stone Foundation (homeless relief)
Bath & North East Somerset Community Safety & Drugs Partnership
Royal National Institute of Blind People
St Peter’s Church, Eynsham (new roof)
The Big Issue Foundation (homeless relief)
Breakthrough (breast cancer research)
St Mary's Hall, Stonyhurst College
Prisoners' Education Trust
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Post by Primula Baggins »

I guess (naively) I thought that New Line would not spend hundreds of millions of dollars filming, distributing, and marketing three very long movies if there was any question at all about the rights. I mean, I am not allowed to borrow money to buy a house until the bank is completely satisfied that the house is genuinely for sale and the title is unencumbered.

But perhaps they were just trying to sweep the claims aside.
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
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Post by vison »

solicitr wrote:The Tolkien Trust is the charitable arm of the Tolkien Estate. It owns most of JRRT's copyrights, and gives the income philanthropically to a list of worthy causes as long as your arm, including but not limited to

Doctors Without Borders
Famine Action
The Simon Wiesenthal Center
Asylum Welcome
Landmine Action
The Woodland Trust
Womankind (equal rights and female-owned businesses in developing countries)
World Wildlife Foundation
Forced Migration Review
Create (fine arts for poor children)
University of Manitoba Medical School
Who Cares?
Mind (rights and independent living support for the mentally ill and handicapped).
Story Museum
Oxford Literary Festival
The Porch Stepping Stone Foundation (homeless relief)
Bath & North East Somerset Community Safety & Drugs Partnership
Royal National Institute of Blind People
St Peter’s Church, Eynsham (new roof)
The Big Issue Foundation (homeless relief)
Breakthrough (breast cancer research)
St Mary's Hall, Stonyhurst College
Prisoners' Education Trust
Thanks! I guess I coulda googled it, but I always forget you can do that.

Quite the Lefty List, isn't it? :P
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Post by BrianIsSmilingAtYou »

That's a real bomb. WOW!

It will be interesting to see what comes of this.

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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

nerdanel wrote:Need to see the Complaint. Gah, the Los Angeles Superior Court charges to search recent filings.
That's really annoying!
Hopefully some news organization or blogger will post it for us for free.
I searched and couldn't find anything yet, but hopefully something will come up.
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Post by vison »

You have to wonder at the stupidity of their cupidity, don't you?

I remember hearing an interview with Sean Connery in which he discussed the lawsuit he brought against the producers of "The Man Who Would be King". Both he and Michael Caine got royally screwed by the creative bookkeeping of the studio in question, but I think they eventually got something. But that was small potatoes, compared to LOTR.
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

solicitr wrote:Let's see:
Jackson had to sue New Line for his cut
Saul Zaentz had to sue New Line for his cut
The actors had to sue New Line for their cut
..anyone see a pattern?
I had the same thought, soli.
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Post by solicitr »

Here's a bit of light on the legal theory vis-a-vis The Hobbit, from The Guardian:
the suit also calls for "a declaration from the Court that the plaintiffs have a right to terminate any further rights New Line may have to the Tolkien works under the agreements, including The Hobbit, due to the serious and material nature of the breach of the agreements".
8)
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Uh huh. I thought it would be something like that. I hope for the Tolkien Estate's sake that the rest of their claims have a more solid basis.
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Post by Primula Baggins »

If all I knew about this was the timing, and if it were some fly-by-night outfit rather than the Tolkien Estate, I would conclude that this is a shakedown.

I have to believe there's more to it than that (but hope that it can be settled with a large enough check).
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
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Post by Alatar »

Oh, I'm sure a healthy cheque/check will make all this go away. ;)
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