Warner Bros. and New Line have struck a multi-year deal with The Lord of the Rings rights holders Embracers Group AB to develop new movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien‘s epic fantasy tale.
The deal was announced during Warner Bros. Discovery’s investor call on Thursday, and listen, I understand why WBD had to make this deal. Really, I do. But aren’t we Lord of the Rings‘d out at this point? It sure feels like it. I mean, Amazon’s big-budget series, The Rings of Power, performed well enough, but it didn’t perform that well, and New Line already has an animated movie, The War of the Rohirrim, in the works for a theatrical release in 2024. I just don’t see a real need for more LOTR right now, especially if the TV series continues for years to come. But I get it… if WBD didn’t do this deal, surely another studio would’ve.
It’s possible that Amazon Studios itself could’ve made a play for the LOTR rights, which would’ve allowed them to develop theatrical movies using the world they created for streaming, though that may not have made financial sense for the studio given the fact that The Rings of Power hasn’t necessarily been a smash hit thus far.
Peter Jackson directed New Line’s acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy, which grossed nearly $3 billion at the box office in the early 200s and saw its finale, The Return of the King, win the Oscar for Best Picture. Jackson went on to direct an equally successful if not quite as beloved Hobbit trilogy. There’s no word on whether Jackson and his collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens will be involved in these new films, though they were aware this new deal was in the works.
“Warner Brothers and Embracer have kept us in the loop every step of the way. We look forward to speaking with them further to hear their vision for the franchise moving forward,” the trio said in a statement.
Clearly, WBD chief David Zaslav felt there was still enough blood to squeeze from that almighty liteary stone, and now it will be on WB’s film chiefs Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy to deliver the goods, which means enticing fans of Jackson’s films while giving them something new on which to chew. De Luca was actually New Line’s president of production when the first LOTR movie went into production, though he had already moved on from the studio by the time the film was released in 2001.
“20 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. 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, and we are excited to partner with Middle-earth Enterprises and Embracer on this adventure,” De Luca and Abdy said in a joint statement.
“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,” added Lee Guinchard, the CEO of Freemode, which is part of Embracer. That’s the Swedish gaming company that acquired the rights to LOTR movies, games, merchandise, theme park attractions, and live productions when it purchased previous rights holder Middle-earth Enterprises from The Saul Zaentz Company last year.
It’ll be interesting to see how new LOTR movies perform on the big screen in a box office landscape that is dominated by superheroes, which wasn’t the case back when Jackson’s trilogy was released, as Marvel’s Iron Man didn’t fly into theaters until 2008. Perhaps more importantly, there wasn’t a Lord of the Rings streaming series available back then either.
With James Gunn at the helm of DC, and The Lord of the Rings back where it belongs, you can safely bet that Zaslav’s next order of business will be bringing back the Harry Potter franchise in some way, shape, or form — likely with original stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. Whether he’ll want controversial author J.K. Rowling involved, or pay her even more money to stay away, is another question altogether.