Image Credit: Everett CollectionAlmost one month after Guillermo del Toro dropped out of directing The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson is in talks to helm the two films in the franchise. While we wait for the studios involved or Jackson’s manager to confirm, there are lots of questions that remain before The Hobbit can actually begin production, let alone reach the big screen.
First, MGM, the debt-laden studio that owns 50 percent of the rights to the classic tale, is facing an uncertain future. The studio failed to attract bids high enough to satisfy its creditors during an auction earlier this year, and the latest plan may see Spyglass Entertainment running the studio in a prepackaged bankruptcy, according to the Wall Street Journal. Talks are continuing and no decision has yet been made, though some resolution is needed before the studio’s debt waiver expires in mid-July. Some Hollywood insiders question whether production could actually proceed if there’s a chance that those rights could wind up in bankruptcy court along with the rest of MGM’s assets (it’s the same reason why the Bond franchise is tied up since MGM owns half of those rights, too), but sources close to the Hobbit project insist that MGM’s financial woes aren’t a factor in this production.
The other issue to consider is how much money the studios can offer Jackson. Saul Zaentz, Harvey Weinstein, and the Tolkien estate are all gross participants in the Hobbit movies — meaning they get a share of the profits right off the top. Jackson will also receive a part of the pie for his producing efforts, but adding director to his title card greatly increases his right to the revenue generated from the movies. How much can the studios pay and will they even be able to get this thing up and running with MGM’s future so uncertain? Stay tuned as we learn more.