Actors sue New Line over 'Rings' profits

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Fifteen actors from the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy are suing New Line Cinema for breach of contract, claiming the company hasn't paid them their percentage of an estimated $100 million in profits from the sales of movie merchandise, their attorney said Wednesday.

The New Zealand actors were supposed to split 5% of the revenue after expenses from sales of caps, video games, mugs and other merchandise but New Line breached the contract by taking distribution and "gross participation" fees to which it wasn't entitled, according to the lawsuit filed May 30 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The fees weren't in the contract and they ate up all of the profits owed to the actors, said their attorney, Henry Gradstein of Los Angeles.

With those fees, "the expenses will always be approximately 104%. It's Hollywood accounting," Gradstein said.

The merchandise has created $100 million in net profits, including $22 million alone for items associated with Paul Norell, who played the "King of the Dead," the attorney estimated.

New Line does not comment on pending litigation, spokesman Robert Pini said Wednesday.

It's not the first suit against New Line stemming from the hugely successful movie series.

Director Peter Jackson's production company sued the distributor two years ago, claiming it was shortchanged on profits, including revenue from DVD sales, for 2001's "The Fellowship of the Ring."

Also in 2005, New Line reached an out-of-court settlement with Hollywood producer Saul Zaentz, who claimed he was owed an additional $20 million in royalties from the "Lord of the Rings" films. Terms were not disclosed.
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