Round 1 went to the Tolkien trust today in its battle with New Line Cinema over an alleged $220 million it claims is owed from the profits made from The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Judge Ann Jones turned away arguments from the defense that the nature of all the lawsuits claims were such that a jury wasn’t required and she should consider them herself.
She also denied an alternative defense motion that asked for her to ‘decide’ on some claims while others went to a jury.
“I am reluctant to do something serially that I can do simultaneously, I do not want these (witnesses) to come back twice” Jones said.
The door was left slightly ajar though for lawyers of New Line Cinema when the judge said she may be pursuaded at a later date to change her mind and split the case into two phrases.
Bonnie E. Eskenazi, an attorney for the Tolkien trust said “Jones’ rulings mean the trial will proceed like most trials do.”
Tolkien’s heirs are also alleging breach of contract and asking the court to force New Line Cinema to hand over accounts of profits from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The Tolkien Trust, a British registered charity set up in 1977 to manage future profits made from the authors works, claim the original deal to the rights of the books included 7.5% of gross movie receipts and merchandise less certain costs going to the charity.
The trial is set to start on October 19th. What this might mean for The Hobbit movie remains to be seen but with filming due to start during the court case it looks like The Tolkien Trust timed it pretty well if they were looking for any kind of leverage.
It’s also understandable why New Line Cinema did not want a jury trial when news of The Hobbit movies will be common place by the time they are selected.
Trying to cast themselves as the good guys against a charitable trust when production of 2 more Tolkien works is under way is going to be very difficult, especially when The Hobbit movies are both practically guaranteed to be blockbusters.