The Tolkien Trust, which represents the estate of JRR Tolkien has filed a lawsuit against New Line claiming they are owed $140 million :

Charging “unabashed and insatiable greed,” the plaintiffs said in the complaint that New Line, which produced and distributed the “Lord of the Rings” movies, had failed to pay anything despite a nearly 40-year-old contract that entitles the trusts and the publishers to 7.5 percent of the films’ gross revenues, less certain costs.

The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy has earned some $6 billion worldwide. This follows a similar suit (since settled) by Peter Jackson, and another one started last year by producer Saul Zaentz. While this kind of suit normally would be of only cursrty interest to movie goes, the Tolkien estate is also seeking punitive damages and attempting to block the next two Hobbit movies. So, you’d better pay up, New Line, or break the heart of millions of Hobbit lovers!


  1. I don’t know what the hell is going on with New Line, but they clearly have screwed themselves on these movies, with new lawsuits seemingly every other week.

  2. If this goes to court, New Line and TimeWarner could lose the rights. So the Tolkeins and HarperCollins UK could get ALL the monies owed them, AND then sell the rights with a larger royalty to the highest bidder.

  3. The magic words are probably…”less certain costs.”

    New Line is probably used to using that clause to ensure that no one gets anything. But the Tolkien estate has an income north of 10+ million annually, so they can fund a protracted and nasty legal battle if they want. Which will probably be enough for New Line to settle, unless they want to face shades of the Buchwald vs Paramount lawsuit again…

  4. Obviously if any money is due to the Tolkien estate, I think they should have it. But I recall a certain irate son of the author denying wanting anything to do with the films, and when most people make bold, angry statements like that, they reject the money too.