Remember when the estate for author J.R.R. Tolkien filed suit against Warner Bros over a Lord Of The Rings-themed online gambling game? Well, it seems that Warner Bros has won the first round.
Warner Bros (and Saul Zentz, the longtime rights holder) filed a countersuit in March against the estate, claiming that the initial lawsuit “hurt financially and had its rights to the author’s properties undermined,” and that it had to cancel the licensing agreement with Microgaming because of the suit, and that the estate has been receiving royalties from the agreement that was re-worked in 2010 already.
Today, a federal judge dismissed the motion by the plaintiffs to have the counterclaims dismissed, allowing the countersuit to move forward.
When it rains…it seems the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien is upset over an online slot machine game using the Lord Of The Rings property – so much so that they’ve sued Warner Bros, New Line, and Saul Zentz Co. (the long-time movie rights holder Lord Of The Rings) for $80 million.
Apparently the estate’s lawyers received a spam email about the game, and looked into the rights. In the lawsuit they claim, “The original contracting parties thus contemplated a limited grant of the right to sell consumer products of the type regularly merchandised at the time such as figurines, tableware, stationery items, clothing and the like. They did not include any grant of exploitations such as electronic or digital rights, rights in media yet to be devised or other intangibles such as rights in services.” The estate also learned that a physical slot machine game was also planned.
There are video games, etc. based on the movies, so it seems odd that this particular claim is made, as it seems to imply that those rights were not granted to the defendants.
One more of the rumored cast members has become true: James Nesbitt (Jekyll) has been cast has as Bofur, described as “a disarmingly forthright, funny and occasionally brave Dwarf.” “James’s charm, warmth and wit are legendary as is his range as an actor in both comedic and dramatic roles. We feel very lucky to be able to welcome him as one of our cast.” said director Peter Jackson. Also announced was newcomer Adam Brown, who will play Ori.
Reports are hitting the streets that The Hobbit has finally gotten the go ahead for formal production – TheWrap reports that the production has been given the green light, with Peter Jackson agreeing to direct in addition to his producing and writing duties, although The Hollywood Reporter says that the acting union issue is still a key hurdle to be overcome to make the hoped for February filming date, and that the MGM debt/funding issue is not necessarily settled, but shouldn’t be a stopper.
Update: – It’s official now, as New Line president Toby Emmerich, Warner Bros. President Alan Horn, and MGM co-CEO Steve Cooper jointly announced it, with principle photography to begin in February.
Blastr (nee Sci-Fi Wire) has an interesting graphical representation of what has transpired in the history of attempting to get a live-action version of The Hobbit on the big screen – think Family Circus. Points off though for “The Similarion”.
Just an update on the latest of the Hobbit saga – the production, not the story: Peter Jackson is reportedly meeting with actors this week in LA, with NY and the U.K. on the schedule, even though the production has not yet received a green light from studios WB and MGM due to MGM’s financial situation. WB is reportedly negotiating with MGM – which really means they are negotiating with creditors who probably see this as MGM’s only major franchise…
The making of The Hobbit could be as much a saga as the story itself. With the departure of Guillermo del Toro as director of the project, there is a void to fill – if production ever gets moving again. Currently at the top of the void-fill rumor list David Yates, who has directed the last 4 Harry Potter films, including the yet-to-be-released two-part finale. Can he move from one epic series to another?
Shock: Guillermo del Toro has officially announced his departure from The Hobbit as director. “In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming ‘The Hobbit,’ I am faced with the hardest decision of my life”, Guillermo said. At this point he will continue co-writing the screenplay. Update 6/1: Peter Jackson says that he might direct instead.
When will The Hobbit go before the cameras? Director Guillermo del Toro doesn’t know. “You know, there cannot be any start date, really, until the MGM situation gets resolved, because they do hold a considerable portion of the rights,” del Toro said in a conference call, referring to MGM’s financial troubles, with the studio looking for a buyer to avoid bankruptcy. He also states unequivocally that “It’s not green-lit. That’s categorical. It is not green-lit.”
Warner Bros. has announced that the release dates for parts 1 and 2 of The Hobbit will be set in December 2012 and 2013, respectively (despite an IMAX release that gave 2013 as the release date of just The Hobbit, which was an error). Both scripts are details are being worked out, but it looks like full production could begin on time by this summer.