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Wed 18 Dec 2013 10:15 AM

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Qatar-backed film studio in $75m legal battle over Hobbit movies

Miramax and Weinsteins suing Time Warner for splitting the book into three movies

Qatar-backed film studio in $75m legal battle over Hobbit movies

Miramax, the Hollywood studio part owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, and movie producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein are suing rival Time Warner for at least $75m over its decision to divide the screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's book "The Hobbit" into three parts, and refusing to pay them for the second and third films.

In a complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the Weinstein brothers and Miramax said executives at Warner Brothers and its New Line Cinema unit chose to split "The Hobbit" as a pretext to deprive them of 5 percent of the gross receipts from the last two films.

The Weinsteins said they had in 1998 sold New Line the movie rights to "The Hobbit" and Tolkien's trilogy "The Lord of the Rings," after having spent more than $10m to adapt them. They said New Line had agreed to make payments for the "first motion picture," but not "remakes," based on the books.

"This case is about greed and ingratitude," said the Weinsteins and Miramax, which the brothers founded. "Warner takes this position solely to deprive plaintiffs of their right to share in the revenues from two of the three filmed installments of 'The Hobbit.'"

Warner Brothers countered that the Weinsteins simply made a business mistake when they sold the film rights to New Line.

"This is about one of the great blunders in movie history," said Paul McGuire, a Warner Brothers spokesman.

"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."

The first film, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", was released on December 14 2012 and has so far earned $1,017,003,568 worldwide, while the second film, "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug", was released on December 13 this week and has already made $215,247,401.

This week, the Weinstein brothers also announced a multi-year deal to jointly make films, TV shows, and live stage shows with Miramax, the Oscar-winning film studio they started in 1979 and left in 2005.

In a joint announcement, Miramax and The Weinstein Company said they would make films and TV shows based on Miramax's library of more than 700 films that include "Shakespeare in Love," "Good Will Hunting" and "The English Patient."

The Weinsteins will release co-produced films in the United States, with Miramax selling them internationally. The companies said they anticipate starting production in early to mid-2014, but didn't name the projects. No value was given for the deal.

The brothers founded Miramax, named for their parents Miriam and Max, in 1979 and sold it to Walt Disney Co in 1993. Miramax was subsequently sold in 2010 to investors that included the Qatar Investment Authority and real estate investment firm Colony Capital, in a deal reportedly worth around $663m.

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