How Did Harvey Weinstein Make Millions from the Lord of the Rings Series?

If you are a fan of the fantasy novel by the genius J.R.R. Tolkien, you would know that there’s more to the book series than just mythical creatures running around with a magical ring.

The Lord of the Rings films were supposed to be released by Disney through Miramax but they decided not to fund the film. New Line Cinema took on the job and payed $10 million in turnaround costs. Later on, a single film grossed over $2.9 Billion.

Who is Harvey Weinstein?

Harvey Weinstein is one of the two brothers who founded Miramax. He produced iconic movies like Pulp Fiction, Shakespeare in Love, Kill Bill, and many more.

Weinstein was born on March 19, 1952 in Queens, New York. His grandparents immigrated to the US from Poland. He graduated from John Bowne High School and then attended the State University of New York. (Source: USA Today)

He and his brother Bob independently produced concerts under their company; Harvey & Corky Productions. They were able to book big names like Frank Sinatra, The Rolling Stones, and Jackson Browne.

By the 1970s the Weinstein brothers then used the money they earned from the concert promotions to start an independent film distribution company called Miramax, named after their parents; Miriam and Max. (Source: Vanity Fair)

Needless to say, Miramax took off and has produced a lot of great films since then.

What is Weinstein’s Involvement in the Production of the LOTR Series?

Disney and Miramax were not completely sold on the idea of producing the trilogy. Instead, they let New Line Cinema produce the film with turnaround costs up to $10 million. The companies didn’t really want to put up a budget beyond the projected value of the film. (Source: Hollywood Reporter)

By the time the scripts were done. It was evident that Miramax could not produce the film on such a high budget. The Weinstein brothers suggested to cut the film into a single movie instead of three. Peter Jackson, the director, wanted to stay true to J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. (Source: Hollywood Reporter)

The first three movies worked with a budget of $281 million and gathered a total of $2.9 billion at the box office. This huge success convinced Harvey Weinstein to produce The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. (Source: Hollywood Reporter)

How Much Did The Hobbit Series Make?

The series had a huge budget and as assumed, it also earned a billions in the box office. On the first three weeks out, the first movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, had grossed about $826.6 million in worldwide sales. In about a month or so, the film reached its $1 billion milestone. The next two films: The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of Five Armies earned $958.4 million and $956 million respectively. (Source: Statista)

The Controversy Behind the Film and the Producers

It was not clear if the Weinsteins had a deal to receive a cut from the planned sequels of The Hobbit. According to credible sources, Warners have a written deal with the Miramax founders that only covers the first installation of the trilogy. The brothers however believe that they deserve a cut from all three of the films. (Source: Hollywood Reporter)

It was quite a messy deal. A source who was pretty close to the parties said: “This is one of the most complicated arrangements in Hollywood history, but in success, it’s great for everyone.” (Source: Hollywood Reporter)

11 thoughts on “How Did Harvey Weinstein Make Millions from the Lord of the Rings Series?”

  1. LewisEFurr

    The thing I love the most about what led to the creation of LOTR is that it was one of the largest undertakings financially and physically in cinematic history and they put the creator of Brain Dead at the helm. I like to think they saw what Peter Jackson was able to do with the (to this day) unrivaled level and quality of gore and were like “have at it”.

  2. peon2

    In a similar vein, Sean Connery was offered 14% of the revenue to play Gandalf. He turned it down because he read the script and said he didn’t understand it.

  3. rnilbog

    I believe Miramax wanted to make it a single movie while the filmmakers wanted to make it 2, but then New Line was like “Uh, there’s three books. It should be three movies.”

    Edit: Okay, apparently the filmmakers wanted 3, Miramax agreed on 2, then changed their mind to 1, then they pitched it to New Line as 2 but New Line said 3.

  4. jpop237

    And everyone tried not paying the Tolkien estate on grounds there was no profit to divide.

  5. DreGu90

    Here’s an excerpt from the article:

    > **After failing to persuade Miramax’s parent, The Walt Disney Co., to fund a two-picture version, they agreed to let Jackson set it up at New Line — on the condition that New Line pay them $10 million in “turnaround” costs and a slice of the backend.** As part of the deal, Miramax and the Weinsteins also were granted 5 percent of first-dollar gross from any future Hobbit film, with the company and the brothers dividing that 5 percent. Miramax’s new owners, a consortium of investors led by Colony Capital, also will benefit with roughly 2.5 percent of Hobbit’s profits.

  6. AndrewAffel

    Miramax! I thought they only made classy films like ‘The Piano’.

  7. theknyte

    It seems mind blowing now, but back then it was a mostly unproven director trying to make what was thought to be an impossible adaptation. Jackson’s largest film to that point was “The Frighteners” which barely broke even at the box office. (Budget = $26 million, Box office = $29.3 million) The LOTR property has a [LONG](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle-earth_in_film) history of some very big people trying to make in into a film with little luck over the decades.

    This was a huge gamble to any studio that took it on. Just be thankful that New Line did, so we got the masterpiece we now have.

  8. velenfrosch

    J. R. R. Tolkien despised Disney so it worked out for the best.

  9. Photog1981

    Disney could have produced the Harry Potter movies, too, but they scoffed, didn’t think they’d make enough of a profit.

  10. usf_edd

    Jokes on them, turns out these movies have never made a profit.

    (According to the studio, anyway)

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