NEW YORK (Reuters) - The estate of author J.R.R. Tolkien and Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins Publishers sued the producer of the “Lord of the Rings” movies, New Line Cinema, on Monday in a fight over profits from the blockbuster trilogy.
The trustees of the writer’s British charity, and News Corp’s HarperCollins cited a failure to pay a contractually agreed 7.5 percent of gross profit for the three films based on the “Lord of the Rings” novels.
The suit follows “Rings” director Peter Jackson’s lawsuit against New Line for underpayment that was settled in December. When that deal was finalized, Jackson signed on to be executive producer of “The Hobbit,” also based on a Tolkien novel.
New Line, a division of global media conglomerate Time Warner Inc, declined to comment on the new suit.
The trustees and HarperCollins are seeking in excess of $150 million (76.94 million pounds) in compensatory damages, unspecified punitive damages and a court order giving the trust a right to terminate New Line’s rights to make more films based on the author’s writings, including “The Hobbit,” according to the statement.
“New Line has not paid the plaintiffs even one penny of its contractual share of gross receipts despite the billions of dollars of gross revenue generated by these wildly successful motion pictures,” the trustees’s UK lawyer Steven Maier said in a statement. “To make matters worse, to date New Line has even prevented the plaintiffs from auditing the last two films of the series.”
The trustees were paid an upfront fee of about $62,500 in an “upfront sequel fee” and nothing more, trustee spokesman Lonnie Soury said.
The three movies: “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Twin Towers” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” took in nearly $3 billion at worldwide box offices.
Reporting by Kenneth Li in New York and John Tilak in Bangalore; Editing by Jarshad Kakkrakandy/Andre Grenon