Warner Brothers has successfully stopped the release of Age of Hobbits, a low-budget "mockbuster" set for release just a few days before Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. On Monday, a California federal judge issued a restraining order against the film, successfully blocking Age of the Hobbits from its schedule online and DVD release.
The film was made by the production company The Asylum which has earned itself a pesky reputation for releasing films that ride the coattails of actual Blockbusters. Past film releases by The Asylum include, Snakes on a Train, Transmorphers, and Titanic II. The studio defended their release of Age of the Hobbits saying that the word Hobbit referred not to the J.R.R. Tolkien creations but to, "a real-life human subspecies, Homo Floresiensis, discovered in 2003 in Indonesia." This ruling is the first time that one of Asylum's releases has been legally blocked.
On Monday, Judge Philip Gutierrez said in the ruling,
"Asylum's argument appears to ignore the connection between the term used to describe Homo Floresiensis and Tolkien's hobbits. Asylum treats the use of the two terms as completely unrelated, but the terms are in fact closely related: Scientists gave Homo Floresiensis the nickname 'Hobbit' because its appearance resembled Tolkien's hobbits, as described in his novels ... Given that Homo Floresiensis received the nickname 'Hobbit' specifically because of its resemblance of Tolkien's fictional hobbits, the Court finds Asylum's argument that its movie is wholly unrelated to Tolkien's work because it is about Homo Floresiensis to be disingenuous."
There will be another hearing of the case on Jan. 28 to determine if the restraining order against Age of the Hobbits will turn into a preliminary injunction. By then, most of the damage will be done as Age of the Hobbits will have lost the golden window of opportunity to really cash in on the Hobbit's success.