New Line Cinema is at it again. With all the money Lord of the Rings has made them, you’d think they’d be able to pay their bills. Well, maybe it’s not so much that they’re not able to pay them. Allegedly, they just don’t want to pay them.

Variety reports that a group of fifteen New Zealand actors who appeared in Lord of the Rings are suing the studio for unpaid royalties. At issue are royalties for merchandising revenue, which they say the company has conveniently forgotten it’s supposed to pay.

Involved is a lot of complicated, creative accounting so I’m going to quote what’s going on directly from Variety, to avoid having anything lost in the translation: “The actors contacted attorney Henry Gradstein, who filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court to recover money the actors figured they are owed under paragraph 11 of their contracts. Based on the paragraph, the actors believed they would receive 5% of "net merchandising revenue" split among all actors whose characters are portrayed on the merchandise. What the actors didn't realize is that gross merchandising revenue apparently became "net merchandising revenue" after certain unexpected expenses were deducted. The biggest of these was a 50% distribution fee that the actors had never seen mentioned anywhere in their contract, according to the lawsuit. There were also other payments and fees that the actors felt were not "related to the generation of the relevant merchandising revenue." After looking at all the fees that were being deducted from the gross revenues, the actors figured it would be impossible to ever have any "net merchandising revenue" no matter how much merchandise was sold.”

Those of you who’ve been keeping up will remember that similar accounting disputes were what caused the rift between LOTR director Peter Jackson and New Line. Some have decided to blame Peter Jackson for this, apparently they think he’s rich enough and should just bend over and take it. I believe the psychological term for this stance is “penis envy.” But if anything, this ought to be proof that the problem isn’t with Peter. It really seems like New Line is up to no good, and this time they’re not just screwing over a rich director but the little guy as well.

Actors filing suit against New Line Cinema include: Noel Appleby, Jed Brophy, Mark Ferguson, Ray Henwood, Bruce Hopkins, William Johnson, Nathaniel Lees, Sarah McLeod, Ian Mune, Paul Norell, Craig Parker, Robert Pollock, Martyn Sanderson, Peter Tait and Stephan Ure.

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