Tolkiens threaten to halt 'Rings' films in row over takings

The epic legal battles over profits from The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy long ago eclipsed anything raging on Middle Earth, but New Line Cinema, the films' producer, has just got sight of its most formidable foe to date: the family of J R R Tolkien himself.

The author's descendants claim they have been diddled out of more than $150m (£75m), their share of the almost $6bn that the films based on Tolkien's books have grossed in cinema tickets and DVD sales.

And they say that if they do not get their due – and soon – they plan to scupper work on two prequels, based on Tolkien's book The Hobbit, whose planned production next year has already got devotees in a frenzy of excitement.

Peter Jackson, whose statue for best director was among the 17 Oscars bagged by the original trilogy, signed up as executive producer of the prequels only a few weeks ago after settling his own lawsuit against New Line. Jackson was claiming underpayment in what was the one of the nastiest and most personal legal tussles in the industry.

Now, members of the Tolkien family have filed a suit in a Los Angeles court accusing New Line of one of the most outrageous examples of what they call "Hollywood accounting". They say they are entitled to 7.5 per cent of gross receipts, but New Line is claiming the trilogy's costs were so high, and its income so much lower than the family's estimate, that the receipts did not even meet the minimum that would trigger payments into the two British trusts controlled by the Tolkiens.

"This case presents an extraordinary example of how enormous financial success can breed unabashed and insatiable greed," the lawsuit says. "Despite the nearly $6bn in gross revenues, New Line has crafted a fantasy tale of its own, making the stunning assertion that it has not received sufficient money to pay the plaintiffs a dime."

The trio of films took $3bn at the box office and made almost as much again in video sales and other income, but the Tolkiens say New Line has refused to let it audit the takings and may even have destroyed financial documents to cover their tracks. The studio has refused to comment on the lawsuit.

The family's lawyer, Steven Maier, said: "The Tolkien trustees do not file lawsuits lightly, and have tried unsuccessfully to resolve their claims out of court."

J R R Tolkien created the fantasy world of Middle-earth and wrote The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit while a professor at Oxford University, and the family trust that licensed the film rights to his work dates from 1969, four years before his death. A second family trust distributes royalties to charitable causes, including Alzheimer's and cancer research, a Darfur appeal, and Save the Children, Unicef and the World Wildlife Foundation.

The two trusts are joined in their lawsuit by HarperCollins, the Rupert Murdoch-owned book publisher which owns the rights to Tolkien's literary output.

For fans, the most alarming aspect is the family's request to withdraw New Line's rights to The Hobbit, scuppering plans for two prequels slated for release in 2010 and 2011. For New Line, the prequels are a must-succeed project, because it has failed to repeat the profits it made from the trilogy and is facing steep cuts imposed by its parent company, Time Warner.

News
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
Floyd
newsFloyd 'Creeky' Creekmore still performed regularly to raise money for local hospitals
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Extras
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Real Estate Solicitor 2+PQE - City

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGH VALUE REAL ESTATE / RESID...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

SEN (SLD/PMLD) Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Currently looking for teachers ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?