AN epic battle with Hollywood is continuing at a Southampton pub – as it faces being buried by legal fees.

The Hobbit in Bevois Valley is now launching a major fundraising drive as it continues to fight to retain its famous name.

As reported in the Daily Echo , the pub was sent a letter by a US movie giant, the Saul Zaentz Company, which own the rights to the Lord of the Rings films, saying it would face legal action if it did not ditch its JRR Tolkieninspired theme.

But when a huge campaign on the Internet grabbed worldwide attention and was backed by actors Stephen Fry and Ian McKellen, the Hollywood company behind the legal threats appeared to back down.

Film producer Paul Zaentz contacted the Daily Echo personally to say that he hoped for an “amicable” resolution and suggested the pub would be asked to pay a nominal licence fee of $100 a year – about £63.

But four months later, landlady Stella Roberts says she is still in the dark about what that licence would entail – and the legal wrangling is costing her dear.

She said: “I have no idea at all when this will be sorted. I’m as much in the dark as everybody else.

“They said they’d give us this licence, but what does it entail and why is it taking so long?

“It’s a really difficult situation.”

The Hobbit is owned by Punch Taverns, who are covering certain costs in the legal dispute, but the pub is also incurring losses as the dispute drags on.

Stella added: “There are three lots of solicitors involved – solicitors for Punch Taverns, solicitors for Saul Zaentz and my own solicitor.

“If you think that solicitors cost £100 an hour, 20 hours is already £2,000 and obviously a lot more than that has gone in already.

“The economic situation is not helping pubs and if you then get a £15,000 or £20,000 legal bill you’re finished.”

The threatened pub is now hoping that its supporters will rally round and turn up to a fundraising event.

Stephen Fry has already donated a signed book to an auction set to be held at the Save the Hobbit day and author Neil Gaiman will make an appearance via an Internet video link.

There will also be live music from local bands and an exhibition of Tolkien memorabilia.

The pub says that funds raised during the event will be diverted into a separate bank account, specifically set up for legal costs incurred during the copyright dispute.

Tickets for the event on Saturday, August 11 are £10. For more information, email or call 023 8023 2591.