'The Hobbit' Threatened By Tolkien Lawsuit

Guillermo del ToroJust when you thought it was safe to go back to Middle Earth, New Line Cinema and MGM face another lawsuit that could jeopardize production on "The Hobbit." The Guardian reports that J.R.R. Tolkien's heirs are suing the filmmakers for $220 million dollars in unpaid profits from the film trilogy, and trying to terminate further film rights to Tolkien's work due to breach of contract.

"Should the case go all the way to trial, we are confident that New Line will lose its rights to 'The Hobbit,'" said Bonnie Eskenazi, the lawyer working for the author's son Christopher and the family's charity, the Tolkien Trust.

This isn't the first time "The Hobbit" has been embroiled in legal troubles. Fans may remember it was a lawsuit that originally prevented Peter Jackson from returning to direct the saga. Jackson also sued New Line for unpaid profits and suspicious accounting, and his working relationship with the studio was soured as a result of legal wrangling. But Jackson and New Line resolved their differences in 2007, and went on to put "The Hobbit" into pre-production with Guillermo Del Toro at the helm.

The Tolkien Trust lawsuit threatens to put the brakes on the adaptation once again. The case hinges on the film rights sold by J.R.R. Tolkien back in 1969, which promised a reported 7.5% of future profits. The Tolkien estate insists their rightful share has never been paid, while New Line insists the terms of the old contract are "ambiguous."

The case is due in court in October, and will be decided in the midst of Jackson and Del Toro's pre-production work. Let's hope that it's resolved quickly, quietly and preferably with an out-of-court settlement so we can finally see Bilbo Baggins go on that fateful, One Ring-finding quest.

Are you concerned that "The Hobbit" will be stalled or canceled? Do you think they'll resolve this out of court?