How’s that for a chain of anachronism? My colleagues at TheOneRing.net have the scoop straight from Peter Jackson’s team:
Manager Ken Kamins got a call from the co-president of New Line Cinema, Michael Lynne, who in essence told Ken that the way to settle the lawsuit was to get a commitment from us to make the Hobbit, because “that’s how these things are done”. Michael Lynne said we would stand to make much more money if we tied the lawsuit and the movie deal together and this may well be true, but it’s still the worst reason in the world to agree to make a film.
However last week, Mark Ordesky called Ken and told him that New Line would no longer be requiring our services on the Hobbit and the LOTR ‘prequel’. This was a courtesy call to let us know that the studio was now actively looking to hire another filmmaker for both projects.
Ordesky said that New Line has a limited time option on the film rights they have obtained from Saul Zaentz (this has never been conveyed to us before), and because we won’t discuss making the movies until the lawsuit is resolved, the studio is going to have to hire another director.
If you’re a LotR fan the whole thing is worth a read. Fran and Peter are gracious in dismissal:
This outcome is not what we anticipated or wanted, but neither do we see any positive value in bitterness and rancor. We now have no choice but to let the idea of a film of The Hobbit go and move forward with other projects.
We send our very best wishes to whomever has the privilege of making The Hobbit and look forward to seeing the film on the big screen.
But in laying their cards out for us like that, they had to know the devoted community at TORn will be looking to affect the outcome as much as they can. My email is already buzzing with discussion as to what the fan community can do to alter this situation. New Line may have shot themselves in the foot. I understand the studio wants to win the lawsuit … so why not just wait until the court decides the outcome, then go ahead? Possibly because of this limited-time option they speak of … or possibly because New Line thinks it will lose and would not want to turn around and hire a director who beat them at the money game. “Settle the lawsuit and you get your movies; if we lose, you lose too.”
On the face of it that’s sound business policy; would you want to work again with somebody who successfully sued you? But as a practical matter they will have to weigh their right to conduct their own business against how much business they’d be likely to lose if somebody other than Jackson’s team makes these films. And on that I can’t begin to speculate beyond saying that while the community that loves Peter and only Peter is large and vocal, they by no means comprise the millions of filmgoers worldwide who would make up the bulk of the business.
Me? I might see them made by somebody else, but there’d have to be really good buzz coming off them first. And if you don’t get that buzz from the diehards (like me), then where’s it going to come from? New Line should tread somewhat carefully, I think.
Cross-posted at Electric Venom.