Ian McKellen, Lord of the Rings

New Line Cinema

The lawyers need to shore up their offense or this lawsuit could be headed for the fires of Mordor.

A Los Angeles judge ruled Tuesday that certain parts of the suit filed on behalf of J.R.R. Tolkien's charitable trust against New Line Cinema over—what else?—a royalties dispute must be revised with further details before the case can move forward.

As is, the allegations "support nothing more than a breach of contract" and have not made a case for fraud or breach of fiduciary duty, L.A. Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones wrote in her decision.

The plaintiffs allege in their complaint that New Line, which produced the Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings trilogy, cheated Tolkien's trust out of at least $150 million. According to attorneys representing the trust, a contract the late British author inked in 1969 with the studio that originally owned the rights to his classic series stated that his estate was to receive 7.5 percent of gross receipts from any films and related merchandise.

The trilogy, which kicked off in 2001 with LOTR: The Fellowship of the Rings, took in nearly $3 billion at the box office worldwide.

Tolkien's legal fellowship is asking for both compensatory and punitive damages for its troubles.

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