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Harvey and Bob Weinstein have filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. and its New Line label over profits from the upcoming The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and the next Hobbit sequel. The brothers ran Miramax during the 1990s, when they had the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth novels before they sold it to New Line in 1998, but did hold on to portion of the profits. While Warner Bros. thinks that this deal doesn’t cover the new Hobbit sequels, the Weinsteins argue that it does.
Last month, The Hollywood Reporter first reported that the brothers were threatening to sue Warner, suggesting that they deserve a cut of Smaug’s profits equal to what they earned from 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The Weinsteins reportedly earned $12.5 million from Journey.
The Weinsteins’ Miramax had the rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit until 1998, but were receiving sizable chunks of the profits. After all, Peter Jackson’s films have all become international blockbusters and Journey grossed $1 billion last year. The Hobbit films have also been co-financed by MGM.
“This is about one of the great blunders in movie history,” Warner Bros. said in a statement today. “Fifteen years ago, Miramax, run by the Weinstein brothers, sold its rights in The Hobbit to New Line. No amount of trying to rewrite history can change that fact. They agreed to be paid only on the first motion picture based on The Hobbit. And that's all they're owed.”
There is a growing rivalry between the Weinsteins and Warner Bros. Over the summer, Warner Bros. fought the brothers over the title of Lee Daniels’ The Butler because of a 1916 silent short with the same title they own. The Weinsteins were then forced to use Daniels’ name as part of the movie’s title to differentiate it from the rarely seen short. Harvey Weinstein went on CBS This Morning to claim that the fight was just a scheme to get him to drop his claim to The Hobbit profits.
image: Warner Bros.