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March 2, 2005 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Peter Jackson sues New Line. Over money, naturally. Can 'the little hobbit that could' defeat the mysterious Dark Lordliness of Hollywood's Creative Accountants? Well, it worked for Stan Lee.
posted by Sparx (30 comments total)

 
Why, why would Time Warner do this? They have lots of money. Don't risk having one of the most valuable artists of recent times launch a valid lawsuit against you, in an attempt to pinch a few pennies.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 4:51 PM on March 2, 2005


Huh. Not really sure what to think of that.
posted by graventy at 5:02 PM on March 2, 2005


He is suing over money from the first of the three films, which generated $870 million at box offices in 2001 as well as hundreds of millions more from sales of DVDs, computer games and merchandise such as rubber elf ears, hobbit pipes and ornamental swords.

What about the strong hobbit bong market? Did he get a cut of those sales?

Cause if he did.....
posted by PissOnYourParade at 5:06 PM on March 2, 2005


When asked to comment on the money Peter Jackson claimed was owed to him, he said ...
"We wants whats is ours ... Nassty Hollywoodseys sstoles it from ussss."
/inevitable
posted by seanyboy at 5:12 PM on March 2, 2005


Why, why would Time Warner do this? They have lots of money.

It's not about the money. It's about proving that you won and the other guy lost. Sick, granted, but there it is.

What I don't understand is why the IRS never seems to get involved in these things. Seems like a real career maker for an ambitious bureaucrat (or is that an oxymoron?)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:19 PM on March 2, 2005


well, I suppose it's up to a court to decide precisely what Time Warner did and didn't do. From what little I know about his character, I like to think that Peter Jackson isn't the kind of guy who'll just greedily use whatever tactics he can to get the biggest slice of the pie.

That being said, I still wish that SOMETHING from my childhood could go unmolested by greedy corporations/individuals and somehow NOT get tangled up in a bitter lawsuit.

Marvel Comics I'm looking your direction.
posted by shmegegge at 5:33 PM on March 2, 2005


What I don't understand is why the IRS never seems to get involved in these things

Why would they do that? They get their cut, regardless of whether TW or Jackson claims it as income.
posted by AlexReynolds at 5:45 PM on March 2, 2005


Hollywood accounting is a funny little thing. Forrest Gump didn't make a dime, so it couldn't pay the author of the book royalties. Waterworld ended up in the black, so it wasn't as much of a blight on Costner's career (pre-Postman). Hell, even the Weinstein's got a producers credit, and a chunk of money I'm sure, for wanting the three books to be two movies and for turning it down in the end.

Warners will do the right thing. In 1998, James Cameron had a fit because he didn't get a percentage of the gross for Titanic, but Fox ended up giving him $100 million to make him happy.
posted by Arch Stanton at 6:00 PM on March 2, 2005


Isn't one of the attributes of Hollywood creative accountancy the fact that most (all?) films make a loss on paper? Surely the IRS would be interested if the studios were claiming a loss and getting tax write-offs.

That said, there's a good chance that the IRS has little interest in non-American Peter Jackson.
posted by John Shaft at 6:02 PM on March 2, 2005


How much money does one person need? All of it?
posted by interrobang at 6:38 PM on March 2, 2005


I heard the story about James Cameron and Titanic differently, although it's purely hearsay. I heard that the reason the movie wound up being the most expensive ever made was because he kept building life-size models of the ship for people to act on that he would float in giant pools built in the desert. Then, because he's a terrible director who can't make anything work without going over budget, the ships kept sinking, which drove the movie WAY over budget. The studio flipped their shit and was going to pull the movie and call it a day. Then Cameron forfeited his salary to get them to let him finish because it was the movie he'd always wanted to make and he didn't want it ruined. After the movie made hojillions of dollars, Cameron made a point of mentioning in public that he had forfeited all his earnings to complete the film. The studio ponied up after that to save face, as they knew they would if the movie were successful. If it had flopped they would have gladly never given him a dime for it.
posted by shmegegge at 6:50 PM on March 2, 2005


Why, why would Time Warner do this?

To pay for the Babylon 5 movie.

What?

Oh.

Never mind.

And what's all this I hear about Presidential erections?
posted by WolfDaddy at 7:08 PM on March 2, 2005


I wonder how much money-- if any-- the Tolkien heirs received?

New Line improperly deducted costs relating to home video, used the wrong royalty rate to compute DVD sales, charged too much for subdistribution, did not pay for use of the film’s script and a song lyric written by Ms Walsh in an accompanying video game and incorrectly valued their cut from merchandise sales

All sounds like regular big business creative accounting procedures. Cheat first, pay back later if you have to.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:17 PM on March 2, 2005


Yeah. That's the same story I heard, Shme, although I think the boats were 90% scale to save money.
posted by Arch Stanton at 7:21 PM on March 2, 2005


And to think Cameron made his name by achieving great special effects on the smell of an oily rag.

An unsourced quote on the net somewhere says:
Thank you for your concern. I made my script fee but I gave up my directing fee and my producing fee and my profits. In order to protect the quality of the film.
- James Cameron

WRT Jackson. He's made his millions already, but none of the actors received much aside from fame despite the huge financial success of the movie. Which does kind of suck a bit. There was an section in his book where Sean Austin claimed to be quite happy with salary - until he discovered the amount was for all three films ($250,000). Mind you, based on that book, he is a bit of a whinge.

Also, this is my first FPP!
posted by Sparx at 7:41 PM on March 2, 2005


I wonder how much money-- if any-- the Tolkien heirs received?

Ah, there's the rub. Tolkien sold the film and merchandising rights outright in 1969 for £10,000, to help put his grandchildren through university. Though it's worth pointing out that the films would most likely have never been made, had the family still retained control.
posted by riviera at 8:41 PM on March 2, 2005


...but none of the actors received much aside from fame despite the huge financial success of the movie. Which does kind of suck a bit.

I don't feel too sorry for them, like I'm sure Mortenson and Bloom got much bigger paychecks for their subsequent films. Actually actors are probably lucky they are rarely paid scale, I don't hear them complain about payments as often as musicians do.
posted by bobo123 at 9:17 PM on March 2, 2005


Well then, Sparx, as a fellow n00bie with few fpps under his belt (and one of them terribly done that should have been deleted) allow me to congratulate you on an informative and well received post.
posted by shmegegge at 10:41 PM on March 2, 2005


also, did the actor's really not make much? I mean, was Vigo Mortensen's interest in the movies really that great? Sir Ian McKellan's? I can see Christopher Lee working for pennies. He's used to it. Sean Astin needed the career boost, honestly.

On the other hand... according to the article above, all 3 movies only cost $300+ million. That's one quarter of what Titanic cost for each of these movies. That means you can't really pay a large cast of actors a cool million each, I guess.

I'm very torn over this whole thing.

although I think the boats were 90% scale to save money.

laughed hard.
posted by shmegegge at 10:48 PM on March 2, 2005


Lest I be accused of dissing Sean Austin....I like his work, and I'm particularly impressed that he directed an episode of Angel, showing he has skills on the other side of the camera. His book was brave and about far more than the shooting of LotR.

But still a bit of a whinge.

On preview: Then again, shmegegge , should an actor receive less because a given movie might impact positively on their career?
posted by Sparx at 3:09 AM on March 3, 2005


Anyone who has watched the DVD extras would probably agree with you on the Sean Austin = whinger proposal.

I just hope that Peter Jackson can do another good film at some point in his career. He must be a bit at a loss as to what to do next.
posted by asok at 3:31 AM on March 3, 2005


Why would they do that? They get their cut, regardless of whether TW or Jackson claims it as income.

They don't get a cut if the movie doesn't make a profit. It's the not being challenged on accounting jiggery-pokery that I scratch my head over. Forrest Gump indeed.

there's a good chance that the IRS has little interest in non-American Peter Jackson.

If he made the money in the US, they may or may not be interested in him. There are any number of variables involved.

But I was less interested in Jackson than in the studios. (And didn't I read somewhere that ths actors were all given a cut of the profits because Jackson thought it was the right thing to do?)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:33 AM on March 3, 2005


I just hope that Peter Jackson can do another good film at some point in his career. He must be a bit at a loss as to what to do next.

KONG!
posted by GriffX at 7:31 AM on March 3, 2005


Tolkien sold the film and merchandising rights outright in 1969 for £10,000,

This always saddens me. That the person who is responsible for this whole made-up world and all the characters in it should ultimately receive such a small percentage of the profits. Didn't A. A. Milne do the same thing?

Maybe the creators should be able to sign away rights for quick cash but still retain, say, 5% of any goodness to follow for 100 years.

At the very least it would be nice if the studio were to establish a big, fat scholarship on Tolkein's name.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:59 AM on March 3, 2005


They don't get a cut if the movie doesn't make a profit.

Actually, a classic way of hiding a profit on a film is for the studio to charge themselves a distribution fee for it. Just to make some numbers up out of thin air, imagine that Time Warner charged Time Warner a $500 million fee for distributing the films.That means that Lord of the Rings (and Time Warner's production wing) loses $500 milion in profit-- but Time Warner's distribution gains $500 million in profit. Either way, the IRS gets its cut.
posted by yankeefog at 8:08 AM on March 3, 2005


Secret Life of Gravy

Well, he could have. But he didn't. And even then, he's been dead for decades, so he wouldn't've seen any money from these films anyway. I suppose his family could have, except they're such hardasses that they would've never let the films be made in the first place.

So in the end, we should be happy that he made that "bad" business decision that, at the time, let his kids go to University.
posted by InnocentBystander at 9:17 AM on March 3, 2005


This always saddens me. That the person who is responsible for this whole made-up world and all the characters in it should ultimately receive such a small percentage of the profits

I'm sure he was happy with the UKP10000 when he got it -- in 1969 that was no trivial sum; equivalent to about USD200000 today. If he hadn't been happy with it, he could have turned it down; presumably that was the most anyone was willing to pay in 1969.

A pittance compared to what New Line and co. are making off of it, but he could always have stuck to his guns and tried to get a better deal if he'd wanted to, or refused to sell the rights.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:33 AM on March 3, 2005


Look, it's sad when Van Goghs sell for millions to hang in corporate boardrooms, when the poor fucker sold just one painting in his lifetime. But Tolkien wasn't a starving artist; he had all the grace-and-favour privileges of being an Oxford fellow, and just wanted a bit more cash to go to his grandkids. And £10,000 in 1969 was definitely not small change. He also got a fair bit from selling all of his manuscripts to Marquette University. And heck, he's been dead for 30 years, and the family has definitely not suffered penury.

From my perspective, it's far more equitable than Disney's early exploitation of lax copyright laws to make films of 19th-century stories, followed by its lobbying efforts to extend and re-extend copyright terms for corporate owners so that 'Steamboat Willie' never enters the public domain.
posted by riviera at 10:53 AM on March 3, 2005


I'm still convinced the only reason that Disney wants to extend copyright laws is so that they can retain the rights to crotchless furry Chip and Dale suits.
posted by Arch Stanton at 12:24 PM on March 3, 2005


sparx, sorry if I wasn't clear. I mean to say that I'm surprised that the actors accepted as little as they did to make the movies, except I'm not surprised at Christopher Lee (who has decades of under-payment under his belt and is no doubt used to it) and Sean Astin (whose career belly-dived after Rudy and who I would have thought would have been happy to be involved in a project like this at all for almost any amount of money.).
posted by shmegegge at 5:08 PM on March 3, 2005


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