Here’s a name you don’t see in articles about The Hobbit movie adaptation very much: Saul Zaentz. He’s a producer of music and film, and the guy who actually owns the worldwide film, stage, and merchandise rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. And his relationship with New Line Cinema hasn’t been the most placid journey to there and back again.
But the newest wrinkle in his tenure over performances of Tolkien’s work seems to be a campaign of cracking down on UK businesses that use the word “hobbit,” no matter how small or old or appropriately named they are.
A few years ago, New Line Cinema swore up and down that they’d never let Peter Jackson direct another Tolkien movie because he’d asked an independent auditor to take a look at New Line’s profits on The Lord of the Rings to make sure everybody was getting paid the right amounts (as allowed under his contract) and then sued. At the same time, Zaentz was doing much the same, because the company had refused to reveal the numbers that would confirm their profits.
However, when it started getting close to the time that Zaentz’s agreement with New Line over the LotR and Hobbit rights would expire, things worked themselves out, a director (Jackson) was found for the project, and The Hobbit moved forward. Now that the movie is only about nine months away, Zaentz appears to be making some belated attempts to keep its name from appearing on places that aren’t actually associated with it.
A Scottish firm has been forced to rename its round doored, round everything holiday cabins from “hobbit houses” to something less specific. The Hungry Hobbit Cafe and Sandwich Bar, which has operated under that name in the town where Tolkien grew up (after his family left South Africa for England) for six years, has also been ordered to change “signs, menus, aprons and other items would be expensive for the small business.” One Southampton pub has operated under the name The Hobbit for twenty years, and, since it can neither afford a defense against Zaentz’s lawsuit or afford the full rebranding that his lawsuit demands, is facing closure.
The word “hobbit” itself is even of dubious parentage. Accounts differ as to whether Tolkien himself felt he had invented the word, and research has found it in a book of folklore published in the mid-1850s.
Fortunately for the The Hobbit pub, it has a set of very powerful voices on its side in the battle: the two titans of British tabloid The Sun, and the Telegraph, and one titan of English sensibleness and wit: Stephen Fry. Fry is playing the role of the Master of Lake-town in The Hobbit, so if there was any one capable of getting the right people looking at the issue, it’s him, unless it were the very hobbity Peter Jackson himself.
(via Den of Geek.)