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Warner Bros. Unimpressed by Weinstein Lawsuit for Hobbit Profits
by Susana Polo | 2:01 pm, December 12th, 2013
Bob and Harvey Weinstein are suing Warner Bros. for a share of the profits on the second two Hobbit movies, which isn’t so much like thirteen dwarves trying to get some gold from a dragon, but two dragons trying to get some gold from each other.
It all comes down, at its most basic, to the Weinstein’s investing $10 million in The Lord of the Rings in the 1990s, and whether that means their money has contributed to the making of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Lets wade into this superfluous rock giant boxing match and try not to get smushed.
Warner Bros says:
Fifteen years ago Miramax, run by the Weinstein brothers, sold its rights in The Hobbit to New Line. No amount of trying to rewrite history can change that fact. They agreed to be paid only on the first motion picture based on The Hobbit. And that’s all they’re owed.
And the Weinsteins say:
This case is about greed and ingratitude. It arises in connection with a decision by Warner Bros. and New Line executives to divide a motion picture based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit into three installments… Warner’s position is simply an improper attempt to deprive the people originally responsible for hugely successful films being made from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien of their right to share in revenue from two of the three filmed installments of Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
The deal the Weinsteins made when selling the rights to New Line was because they’d already sunk $10 million into Tolkien-based projects without bringing a movie to production by the time they sold, they were to receive 5% of the profits the “first motion picture” based on each of the four books involved in the deal, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, and The Hobbit. Their filing claims the split was a “pretext” to deprive them of money, and so it seems that the Weinsteins are of the opinion that the decision to split The Hobbit into more than one film was a case of Peter Jackson raising the possibility, and Warner Bros. executives rubbing their hands together and cackling maniacally.
Ok, lets be real, the executives probably did cackle maniacally, but not because of the Weinsteins, because Lord of the Rings movies make lots of money regardless of whether you subtract 5%. In fact, that makes it pretty hard to have a dog in either side of this fight. Warner Bros. almost certainly did not split The Hobbit in order to cheat the Weinsteins of money, but being forced by courts to shell out 5% of the profits is not likely to hurt their bottom line.
But it just goes to show: when dealing with dragons as well as slimy men at the bottom of caves, choose your words carefully. Asking “what have I got in my pocket” instead of an actual riddle just might be the loop hole you were looking for.