31 Mar 2010

MGM Holds The Keys Of Middle-Earth - Creditors Deadline Expires Today (UPDATED)

So we have reached a very critical point in the MGM saga which is closely related to the fate of our beloved Hobbit movie. In only a few hours the deadline set by MGM creditors will expire. The company has asked for one more week but at this point its not clear if this extension will be grated. Frankly its a sad ending for a company like MGM home of some of the most successful movies of all time like Gone With The Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Ben-Hur and the James Bond's series. Hoping to write about happy Hobbitish things, here I am writing again about greed, money, debts ....but I feel I have no choice because this very complicated situation is probably the main reason why The Hobbit is delayed ...again! Seem like yesterday when MGM proudly announced to the world that The Hobbit was going to be made in collaboration with New Line Cinema , it was September 2006. Ian McKellen was to be Gandalf again and Peter Jackson was originally asked to direct and produce the 'prequel' of The Lord of the Rings....but things were about to get very very complicated from the word 'go'. Its incredible to look back now and to realize the first instalment of The Hobbit was due out this year with the second movie to follow in 2011.

Back in 2006 things did look really nice and everything was ok until several legal issues started holding back the movie. First came a very substantial law suit ($150 milion) from the Tolkien Estate and Tolkien publisher HarperCollins in the UK , related to The Lord of the Rings movies - Tolkien Estate/HarperCollins also filed to stop New Line going ahead with The Hobbit movie. A settlement was finally reached in 2009 . New Line Cinema also faced several other lawsuits including one from Peter Jackson again concerning The Lord of the Rings. The relationship between New Line and Peter Jackson was so seriously damaged that as a consequence New Line head Bob Shaye, mentioned that New Line would never work with Jackson again.

MGM however had other ideas, Peter Jackson had to be involved in The Hobbit, it was unthinkable of having a 'prequel' of The Lord of the Rings without him. We will never know exactly what happened behind close doors between PJ , New Line and what role MGM had in bringing the two back together but things did eventually calm down and Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro was chosen to direct The Hobbit.

Complicated....so complicated . At some point in 2009 things seem to settle, differences were left behind...maybe, just maybe it was about to start seriously thinking about making this movie. Vibes coming out of New Zealand were positive, rumors started circulating about potential candidates for the role of Bilbo and filming ....but no, it was not going to be that simple and things to come to halt (again). By the end of 2009 it was clear The Hobbit was not happening , no real reason was ever given - 2010-2011 releases were obviously out of the question.

Trying to untangle The Hobbit complicated situation its not an easy task. Here is what I've been able to find out about the Legal Rights : In 1969 Professor Tolkien sells the Rights of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit to United Artists (MGM) , but for various reasons the movies were never made. In 19 76 United Artists (MGM) sells the Rights (but not all of them) to Saul Zaentz for $10,000. The following year Zaentz create the Tolkien Enterprise and in the same year (1977) Rankin Bass 's The Hobbit animated adaptation is released. In 1978 the controversial adaptation of The Lord of the Rings made by Bakshi is released and very badly recieved as the film does cover only half of the book narrative. In 1980 Rankin Bass releases the animated version of The Return of the King , famously without any prequels . The films Rights will once more change hand in 1997, ending up firstly at Miramax Studios and in 1998 to New Line Cinema...kind of complicated, don't you think? Even more so if you consider that MGM still owns part of the original Rights and therefore holds the keys of Middle-earth.

Latest news from this morning (reuters) suggest that Warner Bros. would be willing to buy out MGM's share of "Hobbit," which Warners controls 50-50 with MGM....so maybe its time to let the halfling go ...time to hand over the keys of Middle-Earth ...MGM?

It does not come a surprise that The Hobbit has been delayed ...again . We are now in the middle of 2010 and few hours away (or there about) from finding out about MGM's future . MGM and the creditors are clearly not happy with the bids been received, they expected and/or wanted more, but time have changed , people are not prepared to pay if they think the price its inflated and disproportionate . What about The Hobbit ? Well...I am sure we will see Middle-earth again one day but I have no idea as yet when that day will be.

UPDATE : MGM has been granted an extension of the deadline that was expiring today. It has been confirmed that creditors have agreed to give MGM more time. The new deadline is May 14 . The saga continues and sadly one Hobbit is stuck in the middle . This is the forth time MGM has been given more time by its creditors, and as far as The Hobbit goes...well , the doors of Middle-Earth remains locked for now with the keys still tucked away in MGM's pockets.

To Be Continued....

(update source: Los Angeles Times)