Tolkien Gateway

United Artists

United Artists is an American film studio and subsidiary of MGM.

In 1969 UA purchased the film rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit from J.R.R. Tolkien for just over £100 000.[1] It is often repeated that Tolkien sold the rights for a 'pittance' in order to pay a tax bill,[1][2] in fact the sum he was paid was approximately equivalent to £2.3 million in 2009 and in addition to it he retained a 7.5% royalty interest in any future adaptation (transmitted to the Tolkien Estate on his death).[3][4]

United Artists commissioned John Boorman to write a screenplay of The Lord of the Rings in 1970, but it was never produced.[5] In 1976 they sold most of their rights to Tolkien's work to Saul Zaentz Company, who have licensed all subsequent authorized adaptations of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings through Middle-earth Enterprises. However, United Artists retained the world distribution rights to film adaptations, until it was purchased by MGM. These are currently exercised by their parent company MGM, which under contract co-financend the The Hobbit film trilogy.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Focus: Tolkien sold film rights to Lord of the Rings to avoid taxman". The Times 15 December 2002
  2. "Tolkien sold film rights for £10,000". This is London 7 December 2001.
  3. Measuring Worth - Relative Value of UK Pounds. Retrieved 2010-08-14.
  4. "JRR Tolkien's estate to sue Lord of the Rings filmmakers New Line Cinema over profits". The Telegraph 17 February 2008.
  5. Janet Croft. Three Rings for Hollywood: Scripts for The Lord of the Rings by Zimmerman, Boorman, and Beagle. Retrieved 2010-08-14.

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