The Weinsteins don’t mess around when it comes to Oscars season. Apparently, they don’t mess around when it comes to their bottom line either. The brothers filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros/ New Line Cinema today, demanding a share of the profits from the next two installments of The Hobbit.
JRR Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings novels have very complicated rights histories. In short, they ended up in the hands of the Weinsteins in the late 90s who wanted Peter Jackson to make two films for $75 million based on the latter property. That proved impossible and after looking at several other possibilities, they decided to sell the rights to New Line Cinema in exchange for some money and a portion of Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit grosses.
All of that is agreed upon by both parties, but what’s unclear is whether Warner Bros owes the Weinsteins money just for the first Hobbit movie or for any movies based on the larger franchise. According to The Huffington Post, the Weinsteins believe the contract signed entitles them to two more big paydays. Conversely, Warner Bros feels very confident in their stance, so much so that executives released a statement today outlining their viewpoint and calling the sale "one of the great blunders in movie history". Sick burn.
It’s all going to come down to the specifics of the contract signed fifteen years ago. It seems like Warner Bros/ New Line Cinema thinks its lawyers wrote language into the agreement that justifies its stance, but obviously, whatever is in there is vague enough that two sides can go to court and argue it out with a straight face.
Ordinarily, I always recommend negotiating rather than hiring lawyers. Such an ordeal can be so expensive it eats into profits, but when we’re considering movies that will make hundreds of millions of dollars, seven figures in legal fees really isn’t a big deal. If I were involved with either of these companies, I’d probably fight it out too.
Once hard facts about the case start emerging, we’ll be sure to bring you a fuller picture of the details, complete with analysis from Cinema Blend’s legal expert Brent Randall. Until then, get excited about the latest installment. Your money for your movie ticket will eventually find itself in someone’s bank account. Exactly whose probably won’t be cleared up for awhile.