The Lord of the Rings film series is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential film series ever produced. Hollywood is on its way to Middle Earth. The Saul Zaentz Co. has decided to sell its Tolkien holdings, which include film, merchandising, gaming, and live event rights to “Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit,” and other titles by author J.R.R. Tolkien.
Zaentz Co. has hired ACF Investment Bank to handle the sale, which is taking place this week as bankers visit the logical Hollywood buyers. Based on recent high valuations for top-tier IP and content producers, the Tolkien properties are expected to fetch at least $2 billion.
The timing of the sale is not coincidental. “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” Amazon’s long-awaited, mega-budgeted TV series adaptation of the enduring “Lord of the Rings” saga, will premiere on September 2. Amazon is at the top of the list of potential suitors for the additional rights currently held by Zaentz.
According to Variety, the rights to use “LOTR” and “The Hobbit” properties in film, video games, merchandising, live events, and theme parks are among the Zaentz Co.’s holdings. It also includes limited matching rights in the event that the Tolkien estate decides to create films or other content based on two compilations of Tolkien writings published after his death in 1973: “The Silmarillion” and “The Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth.”
Warner Bros. also retains some film development rights to “LOTR” through its ownership of New Line Cinema. New Line had massive global box office hits and Oscar wins with director Peter Jackson’s trilogy “Fellowship of the Ring” (2001), “The Two Towers” (2002), and “The Return of the King.” Last year, Warner Bros. announced plans for “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim,” an anime theatrical feature to be produced in collaboration with New Line and Warner Bros. Animation.
However, it is understood that, in the Zaentz Co.’s opinion, significant live-action film rights reverted to them last year, in part because Warner Bros. had not been actively developing new “LOTR” and related content. That development, combined with the anticipation for the new Amazon series, convinced Zaentz Co. that the time had come to sell. Warner Bros. declined to comment, but it is widely assumed that the studio and Zaentz Co. are already at odds over who owns what when it comes to “LOTR” and “Hobbit” rights, which have been the subject of years of litigation.
Zaentz rose to prominence as the long-serving leader of Fantasy Records, an influential jazz and rock label in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. He also produced films such as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975), “Amadeus” (1984), and “The English Patient” (1996), all of which won best picture Oscars. To get the latest updates, keep an eye on Thirsty.
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