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‘Hobbit’ Stars Open Mouths and Wallets To Save Pub Named After Movie

The Hobbit pub in Southampton, England
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A British pub named after ‘The Hobbit‘ was threatened with legal action by the film’s production company (who owns the copyright) and faced changing its name and removing all references to J.R.R. Tolkien’s work from its walls. But if it’s up to the stars of the the upcoming fourth ‘Lord of the Rings’ film, the pub will stay just as it is.

BBC News reported that McKellen and Fry, who play Gandalf and the Master of Laketown respectively in Peter Jackson’s upcoming film version of ‘The Hobbit,’ got wind of the fact that the Saul Zaentz Company, which owns the copyright to many brands associated with both ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ had threatened the pub with legal action if it continued to use images and names associated with those works in its decor, menu and marketing.

McKellen and Fry were apparently not pleased with the company’s threats of legal action. McKellen called it “unnecessary pettiness” while Fry characterized it as “self-defeating bullying.” The Zaentz company ultimately offered to let the pub license the trademarks for an annual fee of $100, which the two actors have offered to pay themselves.

The pub’s landlady, Stella Roberts, said, “I had a telephone call on Saturday evening, while we were trading, from Stephen Fry’s business partner and manager. That’s when he told me. I was very shocked. They’ve said as soon as they finish filming they would like to come down and visit the pub.” Roberts added that she would not claim victory just yet until she saw the license and what exactly it allowed the pub to do.

Fry later tweeted, “Ian McKellen and I v pleased that The Hobbit pub appears to be safe. Between his FB and my tweet I hope we helped common sense prevail.”

The pub, located in Southampton, has been using the name ‘The Hobbit’ for more than 20 years and features characters from Tolkien’s tales on its signs, as well as drinks named after Frodo and Gandalf.

Warner Bros. Pictures will release the first half of ‘The Hobbit’ saga, ‘An Unexpected Journey,’ on December 14th.

Did the Saul Zaentz Company go too far in threatening this little pub? Or are they entitled to protect their assets as the owner of the Tolkien copyrights, no matter how harmless the pub might seem?

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