We knew they were up for grabs and it’s Warner Bros./Discovery who gets the movie rights to The Lord of the Rings. What’s more they’re already planning new movies. As per Deadline, WB/D CEO David Zaslav dropped the news during a Q4 earnings call yesterday. New Line released the LOTR trilogy. However it was a Warners/New Line joint venture for the later trilogy of The Hobbit.
“Following our recent acquisition of Middle-earth Enterprises, we’re thrilled to embark on this new collaborative journey with New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures, bringing the incomparable world of J.R.R. Tolkien back to the big screen in new and exciting ways,” Lee Guinchard, CEO of Embracer Group’s operative group Freemode, said in statement today. “We understand how cherished these works are, and working together with our partners at New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures, we plan to honor the past, look to the future, and adhere to the strongest level of quality and production values.”
“Twenty years ago, New Line took an unprecedented leap of faith to realize the incredible stories, characters and world of The Lord of the Rings on the big screen. The result was a landmark series of films that have been embraced by generations of fans,” Warner Bros Pictures Group co-chairs and CEOs Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy said. “But for all the scope and detail lovingly packed into the two trilogies, the vast, complex and dazzling universe dreamed up by J.R.R. Tolkien remains largely unexplored on film. The opportunity to invite fans deeper into the cinematic world of Middle-earth is an honor. We are excited to partner with Middle-earth Enterprises and Embracer on this adventure.”
That’s the real question. If you search online you may well find some outlets and fans lamenting that WB/D are about to remake the LOTR movies. Admittedly that feels too soon and would be a bad movie. However, whilst I cannot rule that out, there is nothing in this report to indicate that is the case. It’s also worth pointing out that the trio of Peter Jackson, Phillipa Bowens and Fran Walsh who made those 6 movies have been kept in the loop about the process. Again there’s nothing to say these three will develop the new movies at this point. However if they are involved they’re hardly going to remake their own movies.
Where does that leave us? Honestly, we are roughly in the same place as Amazon’s The Rings of Power.
By that I mean in the territory of making up content out of very little. Tolkien wrote more about the First Age of his world (outside of the LOTR and Hobbit novels). However the material included in The Silmarillion is not currently licenced to anyone. Barring a big change of policy it is unlikely to be sold anytime soon. Ergo, far as I can tell, the rights we are talking about today all go back to those sold by Tolkien himself before his death. In other words that includes The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit only. To me that means any new movies must come from the appendices at the end of Return of the King. The exact same spot we were/are in with The Rings of Power.
As for Amazon, if it’s over 8 episodes long, Amazon has the rights. However if it’s under 8, it seems it’s WB/D. That’s what we hear about how the rights are split between movie and TV.
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Given Rings of Power is currently telling the Second Age story, it seems unlikely WB/D would go down a similar route. So what will they make?
WB/D and New Line are already working on an animated movie called The War of the Rohirrim. The movie is set in the past (earlier than The Hobbit) about one of Theoden’s ancestors. It seems most of that film will also be made up. Very little was ever written by Tolkien around this period and this war.
That’s ultimately where we are. Studios see TLOTR as a cash cow. However they’ve already adapted all the ‘completed’ content possible. Now all they can do is look to fan fiction like Amazon has done. Hopefully with a tad more respect for some of the source material, though I would not bank on that. After all, The Hobbit movies were fan faction trash and those were made by the acclaimed LOTR trio mentioned above under this studio.
At this point, without paying silly money to the Tolkien Estate for the rights to The Silmarillion, which I don’t think they’d sell anyway, what is there left to do? I’m guessing we’ll get a young Aragorn movie, maybe something about the war and destruction of Arnor? After that though, I’m struggling.
What do you think as Warner Bros./Discovery gets the movie rights to The Lord of the Rings? They’re already planning new movies, so what will they make? Do you share my cynicism over this? Or, do you just not care as long as WB/D keeps pumping out that old timey Fantasy action? Thoughts below as always.