Monday, March 29, 2010

New Rumors Indicate Hobbit Delay

The One Ring is reporting that the impending sale of MGM is behind the delay on the start of The Hobbit films.
The venerable film studio behind James Bond and about 4,000 other titles is reported to be in about $3.7 billion in debt but holds the distribution rights for two “Hobbit” films that are under contract to be made by Warner Bros. The two studios have an agreement in place to produce and distribute the film but financial difficulties for MGM, including the potential sale of the studio and its holdings, including rights to the films based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien, has delayed the films.

“At this stage we are all working and hoping for the best case scenario. Without a doubt, the MGM situation carries great importance.”

It appears the two films will not get funded and green lights from the studios until the MGM financial affairs are settled. Meanwhile the team in New Zealand continues to work on pre-pre-production (or unofficial pre-production)...
Ian McKellen (Gandalf) posted that he expects production to begin in July. Meanwhile, Andy Serkis (Gollum) has told Digital Spy (video at link) that filming will start "at some point towards the end of this year I expect to start kicking off."

The "pre-pre-production" work has gone so far to include the construction of Hobbiton with a crew of 60 rebuilding the set that had been torn down in 2002. As Serkis indicated in his interview, he has been shown pre-visualization, at least one of the movies scripts is done with the other due very soon and there are rumors of extras casting about to begin soon. Basically it sounds like the "unofficial" pre-production is being treated as official by the crew of The Hobbit films with a goal of hitting that July start date. However, the recent push to make the films in 3D might push that date to October.

Considering how important the films are to Warner Bros. as tent pole features, I find it hard to believe they would delay the films a year unless they absolutely had no recourse. WB and MGM already have a contract for the films, the issue is simply making sure MGM can pay their half of the production costs. The joint agreement between WB and MGM was not something that WB even wanted but the result of one of many lawsuits New Line experienced once the Lord of the Rings trilogy became a huge success. I expect that if MGM cannot meet their contractual obligations, WB has other avenues to handle the issue, none of which require delaying the films. I think all involved would prefer to avoid any future court battles but it seems a year delay would be just as costly.

The sale of MGM is hoped to be completed by the summer. Once that occurs, hopefully something official about the future of the Hobbit films (and the Bond films) will be released. (links via Dark Horizons)

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