Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #366: The Lord of the Lawsuits

Welcome to the show folks...

I'm going to be checking Hell for signs of frost because a major studio has actually settled a lawsuit. Warner Bros. the corporate heirs of Robert Shaye's New Line Cinema debacles have settled the lawsuit over the Lord of the Rings trilogy with the estate of JRR Tolkien and publisher Harper Collins. This could mean hundreds of millions of dollars for both parties, which means PARTY AT TOLKIEN'S HOUSE!!

But first here's a little back-story...

For those who have spent the last dozen years in a cave in the Antarctic the Lord of the Rings trilogy made billions, literally
BILLIONS, of dollars in profits from box-office, home video, and other merchandising for New Line Cinema. Almost from day one there was talk of giving the same big screen treatment to Tolkien's prequel The Hobbit.

The problem was that Robert Shaye, who founded and ultimately practically destroyed New Line, thought that the best way to get The Hobbit off the ground was to alienate everyone he needed to make The Hobbit by screwing them out of the share of the profits promised by their contracts.

Lawsuits were filed, ugly words exchanged, and I got a truckload of material for this blog. Shaye was eventually forced out of New Line, and the company absorbed into the Warner Bros. parent company.

Warner Bros. wanted to make The Hobbit, so they broke from the traditional approach of dragging out lawsuits until all parties are too crushed to fight or dead, and started settling these lawsuits.

Now I know that Warner Bros. only did this to get The Hobbit out of the proverbial hobbit hole, but I'm hoping that it imparts a lesson that Hollywood actually learns.

One of the fundamental rules of capitalism is that if a business deal is done without fraud, and/or coercion, then everyone involved walks away happy.

Sadly Hollywood business practices are rife with fraud (shady accounting) and coercion (lawsuits & counter suits), and no one walks away happy, in fact, they all seem to be walking to the nearest courthouse. I call it the self-fulfilling idiocy, because such scheming and scamming is done under the pretense of saving money for the corporation. However this causes prices to go up in rates unseen outside of Weimar Germany, because everyone wants everything up front, and then there's the costs of constant litigation added onto the company's overhead. So what's intended to save money, costs even more money, and because anyone with half a functioning brain cell could see it coming, makes it a self-fulfilling idiocy.

I would like Warner Bros. to learn from this experience, and realize that if they treat such deals as a business deal, instead of an elaborate ponzi scam, they might start the change that Hollywood needs to survive and ultimately thrive.


  1. So....Does this mean "The Hobbit" is a go?

    On a different note, How goes the book? Any clues as to when all of your loyal fans can order a copy?

  2. The Hobbit is a go apparently.

    As for my book, it's a huge job. I'm about 100,000 words in, and only 3/4 done. So there's still a lot to do.