New Line resolves lawsuit with Tolkien Trust and HarperCollins over ‘Lord of the Rings’

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Clearing the way to move forward with its planned two films of ‘The Hobbit,’ New Line Cinema has settled a lawsuit with the TolkienTrust and HarperCollins Publishers over the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films.

The trustees of the JRR Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins were co-plaintiffs in a claim filed last year against New Line relating to their profit participation in the highly lucurative ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies. The suit sought to block production of ‘The Hobbit’ films until those claims were resolved. The three films, which were released in 2001, 2002 and 2003, amassed close to $3 billion in worldwide ticket sales. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.


Christopher Tolkien, the youngest son of the renowned author, said in a statement that the trustees ‘regret that legal action was necessary, but are glad that this dispute has been settled on satisfactory terms.’ The settlement allows the Tolkien Trust, a British charity, to ‘pursue its charitable objectives.’

New Line parent Warner Bros. is also breathing a sigh of relief. ‘We are pleased to put this litigation behind us,’ said Warner Bros. President Alan Horn. ‘We all look foward to a mutually productive and beneficial relationship in the future.’

Warner Bros./New Line and MGM have plans to co-finance two ‘Hobbit’ movies, the first of which is expected to begin shooting next year in New Zealand. Guillermo del Toro is set to direct both, and ‘Lord of the Rings’ director Peter Jackson is producing with Fran Walsh. Warner Bros. has domestic rights to the franchise, and MGM has international rights.

However, it’s yet to be seen if MGM will be able to come up with its half of the budget given its financially beleaguered state. If not, there surely won’t be a shortage of partners to take its place.

Update (11 PM): For more details on the settlement, see the story in tomorrow’s Times.

— Claudia Eller