Zaentz says he's owed more 'Rings' riches

Saul Zaentz says that New Line Cinema owes him more than $20 million in royalties associated with “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Zaentz’s claim, spelled out in a complaint filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, is based on a partial audit of the first film in the trilogy, “The Fellowship of the Ring.”

According to the complaint, Zaentz was to receive a percentage of adjusted gross receipts of New Line and New Line’s sales agents, distributors and distributing agents, without deductions for fees and other expenses.

Zaentz claims that New Line’s calculations have been based on receipts that the studio receives after the foreign distribs take their cuts.

The difference, Zeants says, is $198 million, and he says 10% of that is owed to him. Zaentz also seeks an additional $700,000 in compensatory damages.

Zaentz’s compensation claims are separate from those of executive producers Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein and Miramax Films, which originally licensed the Tolkien rights from Zaentz in 1997.

The next year, Zaentz agreed to allow Miramax to assign the “Lord of the Rings” production rights to New Line, but New Line retained identical obligations outside a change in the calculation of home video revenues.

Zaentz claims that New Line has “failed and refused to provide Zaentz’s auditors with documentation necessary to determine whether other monies are due” under the license agreement.

According to the complaint, Zaentz and New Line began mediation last month, but that the studio “continues to fail and refuses to acknowledge its obligation.”

Zaentz acquired rights to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien from United Artists in 1976. Miramax Films later optioned the rights from Zaentz, who maintained significant profit participation.

Audits were also at the center of a long-running battle that Zaentz waged against Miramax Films in association with the 1997 Oscar-winner “The English Patient.” Zaentz claimed that he and the film’s stars never received their deferred payments or profit participation.

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