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Re: To Hobbit or not To Hobbit?

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  • William Cloud Hicklin
    It s very straightforward, really: When JRRT sold the rights to United Artists in 1969 (the only sale of film rights) he received cash on the nail *and* a
    Message 1 of 13 , Feb 12, 2008
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      It's very straightforward, really: When JRRT sold
      the rights to United Artists in 1969 (the only
      sale of film rights) he received cash on the nail
      *and* a percentage. I had always assumed that
      this was a back-end, i.e. net-profits, deal
      (generally worthless, since Hollywood accountants
      make sure no film ever shows a profit); but
      apparently JRRT was canny enough to hold out for a
      front-end deal or a share of the gross.

      There are no 'rights' based on the Ace Books
      edition, which was not semi-pirate but all-pirate,
      and the 'loophole' Ace claimed never existed.


      --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, David Bratman
      <dbratman@...> wrote:
      >
      > I'm surprised that the Tolkien Estate (or
      Tolkien Trust) is owed any royalties from the
      Jackson films, as the rights had already been sold
      outright during Tolkien's lifetime. I knew that
      New Line had offered the Estate monetary rights
      for the Tolkien family's participation in and
      endorsement of the film project, but that would
      have been an additional deal and the Estate turned
      it down.
      >
      > I thought maybe somebody had confused the
      Tolkien Estate with Tolkien Enterprises, an
      entirely different body with no connection to the
      Estate, but I looked at your source and that's
      what it says.
      >
      > On the other hand, I glanced down at your post
      about reading Simon Armitage's translation of _Sir
      Gawain_ and how it's more contemporary than the
      Tolkien & Gordon translation of 1925. You write
      that Tolkien & Gordon "were traditionalists ...
      aiming to keep the archaic flavor of the Middle
      English language," and I should say they were,
      since their book was an edition of the original
      text and not a translation at all!
      >
      > However, your Amazon link _is_ to Tolkien's (not
      Gordon's) translation, a quite different book,
      probably written in the early 1950s and not
      published until 1975. There seems to have been a
      little confusion here.
      >
      >
      > Adam Smith <amsmith0903@...> wrote:
      >
      > >I just ran across an interesting bit of news.
      It appears that the
      > >Tolkien Estate has filed a $150 mil + dollar
      suit against New Line
      > >Cinema regarding unpaid royalties from the
      first movie trilogy.
      > >
      > >Apparently the suit also seeks the ability to
      block any further movies
      > >from New Line, including the already-slated
      Hobbit twin-pack. I just
      > >put up a more detailed post on my Tolkien-news
      blog at
      > >
      > ><http://www.tolkien-online.com/tolkien-
      news.html>
      > >
      >
    • David Bratman
      ... I do not recall having ever read about this percentage before. Sources say that Tolkien sold the film rights outright, instead of selling an option (in
      Message 2 of 13 , Feb 12, 2008
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        William Cloud Hicklin <solicitr@...> wrote:

        >It's very straightforward, really: When JRRT sold
        >the rights to United Artists in 1969 (the only
        >sale of film rights) he received cash on the nail
        >*and* a percentage.

        I do not recall having ever read about this percentage before. Sources say that Tolkien sold the film rights outright, instead of selling an option (in which the producers have a set period of time to commence making the film, in the absence of which the rights revert). To say that the rights were sold outright gives the impression that no additional money, e.g. a percentage, is owed, and indeed most writings on the subject tend to imply that although the payment seemed large at the time, Tolkien got rooked.

        If the Estate is owed a percentage by the contract, then that makes far more serious the case of the Rankin-Bass "Return of the King", which was made without authorization on the (dubious) grounds that it was based on the (supposedly) out of copyright first edition. I had always presumed that little fuss was made over that because the rights had already been sold, so making an unauthorized film took no money out of the Estate's pocket. But if the Estate was owed a percentage, then it did.

        Very recently I heard a Tolkien scholar criticize the Estate for not having accepted the offer to be consultants on the film, because that did come with a percentage payment and would have earned them a bundle of dough. That anecdote is far less piquant if they were already owed a bundle of dough.

        So I would like to know your source for your statement.




        I had always assumed that
        >this was a back-end, i.e. net-profits, deal
        >(generally worthless, since Hollywood accountants
        >make sure no film ever shows a profit); but
        >apparently JRRT was canny enough to hold out for a
        >front-end deal or a share of the gross.
        >
        >There are no 'rights' based on the Ace Books
        >edition, which was not semi-pirate but all-pirate,
        >and the 'loophole' Ace claimed never existed.
        >
        >
        >--- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, David Bratman
        ><dbratman@...> wrote:
        >>
        >> I'm surprised that the Tolkien Estate (or
        >Tolkien Trust) is owed any royalties from the
        >Jackson films, as the rights had already been sold
        >outright during Tolkien's lifetime. I knew that
        >New Line had offered the Estate monetary rights
        >for the Tolkien family's participation in and
        >endorsement of the film project, but that would
        >have been an additional deal and the Estate turned
        >it down.
        >>
        >> I thought maybe somebody had confused the
        >Tolkien Estate with Tolkien Enterprises, an
        >entirely different body with no connection to the
        >Estate, but I looked at your source and that's
        >what it says.
        >>
        >> On the other hand, I glanced down at your post
        >about reading Simon Armitage's translation of _Sir
        >Gawain_ and how it's more contemporary than the
        >Tolkien & Gordon translation of 1925. You write
        >that Tolkien & Gordon "were traditionalists ...
        >aiming to keep the archaic flavor of the Middle
        >English language," and I should say they were,
        >since their book was an edition of the original
        >text and not a translation at all!
        >>
        >> However, your Amazon link _is_ to Tolkien's (not
        >Gordon's) translation, a quite different book,
        >probably written in the early 1950s and not
        >published until 1975. There seems to have been a
        >little confusion here.
        >>
        >>
        >> Adam Smith <amsmith0903@...> wrote:
        >>
        >> >I just ran across an interesting bit of news.
        >It appears that the
        >> >Tolkien Estate has filed a $150 mil + dollar
        >suit against New Line
        >> >Cinema regarding unpaid royalties from the
        >first movie trilogy.
        >> >
        >> >Apparently the suit also seeks the ability to
        >block any further movies
        >> >from New Line, including the already-slated
        >Hobbit twin-pack. I just
        >> >put up a more detailed post on my Tolkien-news
        >blog at
        >> >
        >> ><http://www.tolkien-online.com/tolkien-
        >news.html>
        >> >
        >>
        >
        >
      • John D Rateliff
        ... I also did not know about the percentage, though there have been a number of references in passing over the last few years about the Estate receiving
        Message 3 of 13 , Feb 12, 2008
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          On Feb 12, 2008, at 7:19 AM, David Bratman wrote:

          > William Cloud Hicklin <solicitr@...> wrote:
          >> It's very straightforward, really: When JRRT sold the rights to
          >> United Artists in 1969 (the only sale of film rights) he received
          >> cash on the nail *and* a percentage.
          >
          > I do not recall having ever read about this percentage before.
          > Sources say that Tolkien sold the film rights outright, instead of
          > selling an option (in which the producers have a set period of time
          > to commence making the film, in the absence of which the rights
          > revert). To say that the rights were sold outright gives the
          > impression that no additional money, e.g. a percentage, is owed,
          > and indeed most writings on the subject tend to imply that although
          > the payment seemed large at the time, Tolkien got rooked.

          I also did not know about the percentage, though there have been a
          number of references in passing over the last few years about the
          Estate receiving substantial amounts of money from the films;
          presumably these shd have instead been about the Estate's being DUE
          subst. amounts &c.
          The various news reports posted here, and those linked to them,
          give a pretty full picture of the Estate's case, including the
          specific percentage, and a lot of interesting details besides. The
          only earlier evidence I cd find on a quick search is the following
          from Rayner Unwin's memoir (which Kristin Thompson's book pointed me
          toward). In his discussion of selling film rights for THE HOBBIT, he
          says that a contract with Rembrandt Films was ready in 1962 but had
          to be renegotiated because of the unsettled status of the copyright,
          and that in the end it went for a $15,000 advance "and a share of
          any profits earned in countries that were signatories of [the] Berne
          [Convention] . . . Over the next few years instalments of the advance
          arrived from Rembrandt" until a script was finished "at the end of
          1964", at which point the project seems to have lapsed. "ultimately
          [Rembrandt] were bought out by United Artist as part of a complex
          deal that was eventually signed in 1969 for THE LORD OF THE RINGS,
          with an option on THE HOBBIT". He describes the fifty-page contract
          with United Artist as "a complicated and ambiguous document"
          requiring some two years to negotiate (GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN--A
          REMEMBRANCER, pages 109-110, 129-130).


          > If the Estate is owed a percentage by the contract, then that makes
          > far more serious the case of the Rankin-Bass "Return of the King",
          > which was made without authorization on the (dubious) grounds that
          > it was based on the (supposedly) out of copyright first edition. I
          > had always presumed that little fuss was made over that because the
          > rights had already been sold, so making an unauthorized film took
          > no money out of the Estate's pocket. But if the Estate was owed a
          > percentage, then it did.

          I've always presumed that since this bombed it wasn't considered
          enough of a threat to be worth undertaking a major lawsuit over,
          especially given the fact that the status of the copyright at that
          time was uncertain. Who knows how such a case wd have come out? Now I
          think they'd be in a much stronger position if they wanted to stop
          sales of the dvd (which was only released after the Jackson films
          revived interest in adaptations of JRRT's story).

          --JDR
        • Merlin DeTardo
          ...
          Message 4 of 13 , Feb 12, 2008
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            --- John D Rateliff <sacnoth@...> wrote:
            << In [R. Unwin's] discussion of selling film rights for THE HOBBIT,
            he says that a contract with Rembrandt Films was ready in 1962 but
            had to be renegotiated because of the unsettled status of the
            copyright, and that in the end it went for a $15,000 advance "and a
            share of any profits earned in countries that were signatories of
            [the] Berne [Convention] . . . Over the next few years instalments
            of the advance arrived from Rembrandt" until a script was
            finished "at the end of 1964", at which point the project seems to
            have lapsed. >>

            Apparently Rembrandt Films (William Synder) did produce and publicly
            exhibit (just once) a cheap, short animated film of _The Hobbit_ in
            1966, to retain its option until the rights could be sold back to
            Tolkien. The animator Gene Deitch discusses his work on the project
            here:

            http://genedeitch.awn.com/index.php3?ltype=chapter&chapter=22

            Deitch's site includes a few images that Jiri Trnka had prepared for
            a full-length version that was never made.*

            See also p. 21 of Scull and Hammond's _Reader's Guide_, which also
            quotes from the same passage in Unwin's "Remembrancer".

            Has anyone here seen this first film version of _The Hobbit_?

            -Merlin DeTardo


            *Thanks to Darkstone at TheOneRing.net for bringing Deitch's site to
            my attention:

            http://newboards.theonering.net/forum/gforum/perl/gforum.cgi?
            post=60880#60880
          • William Cloud Hicklin
            ... Back around the time Film I came out either The Economist or The Financial Times reported that Tolkien got a percentage above a certain sum, on top of IIRC
            Message 5 of 13 , Feb 12, 2008
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              --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Merlin
              DeTardo" <emptyD@...> wrote:
              >


              Back around the time Film I came out either The Economist
              or The Financial Times reported that Tolkien got a
              percentage above a certain sum, on top of IIRC $250,000 US-
              which meant he only realised $10,000, the other 96% going
              to the Inland Revenue.

              However I had believed it was a profits percentage, and
              therefore worthless.



              going to > --- John D Rateliff <sacnoth@> wrote:
              > << In [R. Unwin's] discussion of selling film
              rights for THE HOBBIT,
              > he says that a contract with Rembrandt Films was
              ready in 1962 but
              > had to be renegotiated because of the unsettled
              status of the
              > copyright, and that in the end it went for a
              $15,000 advance "and a
              > share of any profits earned in countries that were
              signatories of
              > [the] Berne [Convention] . . . Over the next few
              years instalments
              > of the advance arrived from Rembrandt" until a
              script was
              > finished "at the end of 1964", at which point the
              project seems to
              > have lapsed. >>
              >
              > Apparently Rembrandt Films (William Synder) did
              produce and publicly
              > exhibit (just once) a cheap, short animated film
              of _The Hobbit_ in
              > 1966, to retain its option until the rights could
              be sold back to
              > Tolkien. The animator Gene Deitch discusses his
              work on the project
              > here:
              >
              > http://genedeitch.awn.com/
              index.php3?ltype=chapter&chapter=22
              >
              > Deitch's site includes a few images that Jiri
              Trnka had prepared for
              > a full-length version that was never made.*
              >
              > See also p. 21 of Scull and Hammond's _Reader's
              Guide_, which also
              > quotes from the same passage in Unwin's
              "Remembrancer".
              >
              > Has anyone here seen this first film version of
              _The Hobbit_?
              >
              > -Merlin DeTardo
              >
              >
              > *Thanks to Darkstone at TheOneRing.net for
              bringing Deitch's site to
              > my attention:
              >
              > http://newboards.theonering.net/forum/gforum/perl/
              gforum.cgi?
              > post=60880#60880
              >
            • David Bratman
              ... Um - what _are_ those ghastly things? Is that bird-lizard thing supposed to be Smaug? And what about the grinning shapeless whatever with the bird feet?
              Message 6 of 13 , Feb 12, 2008
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                Merlin DeTardo <emptyD@...> wrote:

                >Deitch's site includes a few images that Jiri Trnka had prepared for
                >a full-length version that was never made.

                Um - what _are_ those ghastly things? Is that bird-lizard thing supposed to be Smaug? And what about the grinning shapeless whatever with the bird feet? Is it an orc? Gollum? A Ringwraith imported from LOTR? Beorn halfway through changing shape?
              • WendellWag@aol.com
                Excuse me if I m replying to the wrong person. I can t figure out who s saying what here. I wish people would be more careful in showing what is being
                Message 7 of 13 , Feb 13, 2008
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                  Excuse me if I'm replying to the wrong person. I can't figure out who's
                  saying what here. I wish people would be more careful in showing what is being
                  quoted and who said it.

                  In a message dated 2/12/2008 11:37:47 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
                  solicitr@... writes:

                  Back around the time Film I came out either The Economist
                  or The Financial Times reported that Tolkien got a
                  percentage above a certain sum, on top of IIRC $250,000 US-
                  which meant he only realised $10,000, the other 96% going
                  to the Inland Revenue.
                  What does Film I mean? Does this mean the first of the Jackson films? The
                  top income rate in the U.K. is 40% and hasn't been 96% since at least the
                  1970's. Is this talking about the money paid to Tolkien in 1968 when he sold
                  the film rights to the books? According to everything I've read before,
                  Tolkien got about $250,000 and didn't get any future percentages.

                  Wendell Wagner





                  **************The year's hottest artists on the red carpet at the Grammy
                  Awards. Go to AOL Music.
                  (http://music.aol.com/grammys?NCID=aolcmp00300000002565)


                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • William Cloud Hicklin
                  ... of the Jackson films? The ... been 96% since at least the ... Tolkien in 1968 when he sold ... everything I ve read before, ... future percentages.
                  Message 8 of 13 , Feb 13, 2008
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                    --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, WendellWag@...
                    wrote:

                    > What does Film I mean? Does this mean the first
                    of the Jackson films? The
                    > top income rate in the U.K. is 40% and hasn't
                    been 96% since at least the
                    > 1970's. Is this talking about the money paid to
                    Tolkien in 1968 when he sold
                    > the film rights to the books? According to
                    everything I've read before,
                    > Tolkien got about $250,000 and didn't get any
                    future percentages.
                    >


                    By Film I I meant The Fellowship of the Ring, so the story
                    appeared at the end of '01 or early '02. The top tax rate
                    was indeed 96% in 1969, when JRRT sold the rights to UA,
                    and so it's correct in a way to assert he got either a)
                    $250,000 or b) $10,000. Both have been reported.

                    Anyway, six years ago the press, quoting someone from
                    HarperCollins, confirmed that there was a percentage deal
                    in the contract.
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