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Re: [mythsoc] Re: To Hobbit or not To Hobbit?

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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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