Short answer?  Here comes "The Hobbit."

Although pre-production and development have never slowed down on Guillermo Del Toro's "The Hobbit," there was a legal roadblock in place that could have derailed the film, and as of this weekend, that roadblock has been removed.

The lawsuit between The Tolkien Trust and New Line Cinema and HarperCollins Publishers has been settled, with the terms of that settlement being confidential.  Really, this has always been about who got what slice of the profit pie, so the final terms don't matter to anyone but the involved parties.

I'm just glad this was wrapped up now, rather than dragging on and getting ugly.  Money can screw up even the biggest "duh," and this was certainly a case where a lot of money, both past and future, was on the line.

Here's the full press release from this morning:

[more after the jump]

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- The Tolkien Trust (a UK registered charity), New Line Cinema, and HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. have resolved the lawsuit relating to the "Lord of the Rings" films.

The claim was filed in February of last year. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. and the trustees of the JRR Tolkien Estate were co-plaintiffs in the claim, which concerned plaintiffs' participation interest in the "Lord of the Rings" films released between 2001 and 2003. The precise terms of the settlement are confidential.

Commenting on the settlement, Christopher Tolkien said: "The Trustees regret that legal action was necessary, but are glad that this dispute has been settled on satisfactory terms that will allow the Tolkien Trust properly to pursue its charitable objectives. The Trustees acknowledge that New Line may now proceed with its proposed films of 'The Hobbit.'"

Warner Bros.' President & Chief Operating Officer Alan Horn said: "We deeply value the contributions of the Tolkien novels to the success of our films and are pleased to have put this litigation behind us. We all look forward to a mutually productive and beneficial relationship in the future."

The "Lord of the Rings" films produced by New Line are among the most successful films ever created and were released in 2001, 2002 and 2003 respectively.

JRR Tolkien is the world-renowned author of works including "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit." The Tolkien Trust is a UK registered charity that has made grants to charitable causes all over the world totaling over $8 million in the last five years alone.

Throughout its history, New Line has created a number of enduring film franchises, including the Lord of the Rings trilogy, "The Mask," the Austin Powers titles, "Blade," "Rush Hour," "Elf," "Sex and the City" and "Wedding Crashers." New Line became a unit of Warner Bros. Entertainment in March 2008.

Hopefully we'll start hearing big "Hobbit" casting news soon as the film gets closer to production.

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