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Not all that glitters is gold

Warner Bros. Unimpressed by Weinstein Lawsuit for Hobbit Profits


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.

(via Deadline.)

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  • http://jbsargent.wordpress.com/ TWOxACROSS

    Breaking news! Giant company wants more money from other giant company. Public shrugs and cares little. Weather at ten!

  • Penny Marie Sautereau

    In other news; No one cares as long as we get to snicker and make Sherlock jokes this weekend when Bilbo meets Smaug.

  • Anonymous

    Well, the Weinsteins need something to occupy the time before Oscar Bait season officially starts.

  • Anonymous

    Since my partner and I are super nerdy lawyers, we looked up the complaint and had a fun time debating plain language versus equitable remedies last night. Because that’s how we roll. For anyone interested (and apparently by the other comments it’s just us who fall in the middle of the lawyer/nerd venn diagram), you can get the complaint and contract by searching for case number 161383-2013 at http://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/iscroll/.

    Miramax does have an interesting argument here – the intent of the contract seems to have been for Miramax to get paid based on the first version of the films, but not for remakes, and didn’t anticipate at all the trend of splitting a book across multiple movies. Plus there’s a provision that says that Miramax has to get paid at least as well as Peter Jackson, which considering at the time he was best known for Heavenly Creatures and Meet the Feebles isn’t as great as it sounds, but in retrospect works out pretty good for them. Contract interpretation is supposed to be about the intent of the parties to the contract, but it’s also about what the actual language says, which is what makes me think that Warner probably has the better case here. But at least two of us will be interested to see what happens with this one!

    Odd bit of trivia here: Miramax is being represented by David Boies, who represented Al Gore in the 2000 election contest and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging Proposition 8 in California. Not exactly a money-grubbing ambulance chaser.

  • http://anna.balasi.com/ AnnaB

    Was probably a slow day at the Miramax legal department. “For God’s sake, find someone to sue!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/nuuni.nuunani Nuuni Nuunani

    Thank you, that was quite instructional

  • Anonymous

    The Weinsteins have zero case.

  • Anonymous

    Are the Weinsteins bored or something? Someone quick find them a movie to cut for the masses in Iowa!