You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Tolkien Trust settles ‘Rings’ lawsuit

Agreement reached with New Line, HarperCollins

Removing a roadblock from production of “The Hobbit” films, New Line has settled with the Tolkien Trust and HarperCollins in a suit over profit participation by Tolkien’s heirs in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Terms of the settlement, announced Tuesday, were confidential. The trust noted that the settlement allows the New Line/MGM films based on Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” to go forward without legal challenge.

“We are pleased to put this litigation behind us,” said Alan Horn, prexy of New Line parent Warner Bros. “We all look foward to a mutually productive and beneficial relationship in the future.”

The case had been set to go to trial Oct. 19 in Los Angeles Superior Court. Shooting on the two films, directed by Guillermo del Toro, is expected to begin next year with releases set for late 2011 and 2012.

The Tolkien Trust and HarperCollins filed the suit in February 2008, alleging New Line had failed to pay at least $220 million to members of the trust. The plaintiffs had asserted that under a 1969 contract, the trust and other plaintiffs were entitled to 7.5% of gross receipts from the three films — which grossed a combined $3 billion worldwide — and related products, minus certain costs.

The plaintiffs had also sought a declaration from the court that the plaintiffs could terminate any further rights New Line had to the Tolkien works under the agreement — which would have included “The Hobbit” films, which are being produced by “Lord of the Rings” producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh.

“The trustees regret that legal action was necessary, but are glad that this dispute has been settled on satisfactory terms that will allow the Tolkien Trust properly to pursue its charitable objectives,” said Christopher Tolkien, son of the author, in a statement. “The trustees acknowledge that New Line may now proceed with its proposed films of ‘The Hobbit.'”

Bonnie E. Eskenazi, an attorney for the Tolkien Trust, told Daily Variety that the estate had not been paid any money from its contractual share. She also said settlement talks had been ongoing in recent months as the trial date approached.

“The trustees are not litigious people,” she added. “They feel vindicated and completely satisfied with the settlement. This will enhance the trust’s ability to support more than 100 charities throughout the world.”

Those include Save the Children Fund, the Darfur Appeal, Asia Earthquake Appeal and the World Cancer Research Foundation.

MGM and New Line are co-financing “The Hobbit” films. Tolkien’s book, published in 1937, follows the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, who obtains the ring that was the centerpiece for “The Lord of the Rings.

Warner Bros. has domestic rights to “The Hobbit” films and MGM has international rights. With MGM undergoing a financial restructuring, speculation has grown in recent months that MGM might sell off the rights in order to help ease the burden from its massive debt load.

Following the success of the “Rings” trilogy, Jackson sued New Line over profits from the first film, which slowed development of “The Hobbit” films. He settled in 2007.

More Film

  • Donald Trump Chucky Childs Play

    'Child's Play' Stars on New Chucky's 'Creepy' Resemblance to Donald Trump

    At Wednesday night’s world premiere of the “Child’s Play” remake, it was obvious that evil doll Chucky — the star of seven films over three decades — had a little work done. And now he bears a striking resemblance to Donald Trump. “Oh, you caught that?” Aubrey Plaza asked Variety on the black carpet outside [...]

  • Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Opening

    Academy Museum Opening Delayed Again to 2020

    The opening date of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has been delayed again, this time to an unspecified date in 2020. The museum, now under construction at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, has long been beset by delays and cost overruns. In December 2018, the Academy announced that it would open [...]

  • Bradley Cooper speaks at the 30th

    Producers Guild Shifts 2020 Awards Show to Hollywood Palladium

    The Producers Guild of America will hold its 31st Annual Producers Guild Awards at the Hollywood Palladium, shifting the site from the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The PGA had already announced that the show would take place on Jan. 18. The organization, which represents more than 8,000 producers, announced Thursday that it has launched a new [...]

  • Adam Driver appears in The Report

    Amazon’s ‘The Report’ Gets U.K. Theatrical Release Ahead of Streaming Launch

    Amazon Studio’s “The Report” will be released theatrically in the U.K. three weeks before it lands on the Prime Video streaming service. The Scott Z. Burns film tells the story of Daniel J. Jones, a U.S. Senate staffer who worked to reveal that truth about an “enhanced interrogation” program run by the CIA in the [...]

  • Elton John performing at Earls Court,

    Elton John Has a Message for Struggling LGBTQ Youth: 'Be Proud of Who You Are'

    Elton John isn’t at a loss for words when asked if he has a message for young LGBTQ people who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity. In an exclusive interview with Variety at last month’s Cannes Film Festival, just hours before the world premiere of his long-in-the-works biopic “Rocketman,” John spoke candidly about the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content