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J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Hobbit' might finally be coming to screens [Updated]

October 1, 2010 |  1:37 pm

Thehobbit70th

After the wild success of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, it would have seemed logical for Hollywood to get the story's prequel, "The Hobbit," into production. But the third film, "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King," came out in 2003, and so far there have been no casting calls for short hairy actors. No deal to bring "The Hobbit" to screens has been secured.

That may be about to change. Our sibling blog Company Town reports that "The Hobbit" may be produced by a combination of New Line, its parent company Warner Bros. and MGM once financing can be finalized. "The Hobbit" will come to screens in two parts, scripted and directed by "The Lord of the Rings'" Peter Jackson:

People close to the project said that, barring a last-minute glitch, they expect to have all issues settled shortly in order to begin production in mid-January so that the first of the two movies would be ready for a holiday 2012 release. The second film is planned for a December 2013 opening. If production doesn't begin by the first quarter of next year, the people said, "The Hobbit" will miss its planned release dates and will likely have to once again be delayed....

In recent weeks, Warner and New Line have been scrambling to clean up some underlying rights issues with the Tolkien Estate that partly stem from earlier litigation between the studios and the late author’s heirs. After intense negotiations between lawyers, the studios have agreed to pay millions of dollars to the estate to resolve matters, said people with knowledge of the situation.

Last year, Warner/New Line reached a settlement of reportedly more than $100 million with the Tolkien heirs, who in 2008 had sued the studios over royalties to Jackson's three "Lord of the Rings" films, saying the studio owed the estate more than $150 million in profits.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien had four children -- John, Michael, Christopher and Priscilla. Christopher, now 85, has served as J.R.R. Tolkien's literary executor. His father, he told the Guardian last year, "might have been in turns delighted, charmed, amused, puzzled, disquieted, baffled, indignant, but, finally, comprehensively astounded" by the continuing popularity of his works.

[Updated at 11:03 a.m.: The headline on an earlier version of this post misspelled J.R.R. Tolkien's last name as Tolkein.]

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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