The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power may be dominating headlines after a teaser for the Amazon show dropped during the Super Bowl, but it’s far from the only Lord of the Rings news going around. Yesterday we reported that New Line Cinema (the studio behind Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films) announced a release date for its animated film The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim. And today we have another bit of news that has the potential to shape the future of this beloved franchise.
The Lord of the Rings film rights on sale for $2 billion
The film rights for The Lord of the Rings are back on the menu, boys! Or, to be precise, the rights to make films, video games, merchandising, live events and theme parks based on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are for sale. Per Variety, the rights reverted back to the Saul Zaentz Company last year in part because Warner Bros. and New Line didn’t have any new live-action films based on those books in the works and had no active plans to develop more. The Zaentz Company’s holdings also include limited matching rights to produce content based on The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth, should the Tolkien estate ever agree to bring those books to the big screen. The total package of rights is valued at around $2 billion.
Now, with The Rings of Power on the way this might be a bit confusing, so let’s break it down. Saul Zaentz Co. has had the rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit since 1976, when entrepreneur and fantasy fan Saul Zaentz purchased them from the Tolkien estate. The reason Amazon was able to make its new show is because the right to make television series longer than eight episodes is something that was not included in Zaentz Co.’s portfolio of rights, meaning Amazon was able to go straight to the Tolkien Estate and purchase those rights for a cool $250 million. And remember: Amazon only bought the rights to make stuff based on the appendices to The Lord of the Rings, not the actual books themselves. With the rest of these rights going up for sale, we expect Amazon to put in a hefty bid.
Of course, there’s also The War of the Rohirrim movie we mentioned. Apparently Warner Bros. retains “some film developmental rights” to the franchise, although it’s not entirely clear what exactly that means. Debate over ownership of The Lord of the Rings film rights has been a point of contention for Warner Bros., the Tolkien Estate, and Zaentz Co. in the past, so we’ll have to wait and see how this all shakes down.
Warner Bros. hits Total War mod The Rise of Mordor with a takedown notice
In light of all the talk of The Lord of the Rings film and video game rights changing hands, it seems like Warner Bros. is doing a bit of housekeeping as well. Warner Bros. is the studio responsible for licensing Lord of the Rings video games, but in the age of the internet, of course there are LOTR things out there that don’t have their explicit approval.
One such thing is The Rise of Mordor mod for Total War: Attila. This reskins and revamps Total War to let gamers battle it out on Middle-earth, with designs based on the Peter Jackson-era films. The Rise of Mordor has been anticipated by the gaming community for a while; people have known about it for years. The Rise of Mordor’s predecessor, Third Age, has existed since 2015 and Warner Bros. never bothered to issue a similar notice, so the timing is pretty suspicious.
It’s not clear what the fate of The Rise of Mordor will be. This is a fan-made mod, so we assume the developers don’t have many places to go for legal recourse. Kotaku reports that there are signs they may be debating a name change for the mod though, so it’s possible we’ll see this one resurface in some other form.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power teaser breaks Super Bowl viewing records
Obviously, it’s no coincidence that all this Lord of the Rings news is happening right now. We already talked a bit about Amazon debuting its big Rings of Power teaser during the Super Bowl, but what we haven’t talked about is just how many people tuned in to watch the thing: a lot.
Syfy Wire reports that the teaser for The Rings of Power racked up 257 million views within its first 24 hours online, setting a new record for the most-watched ad to debut during a Super Bowl. And you’d better bet your last barrel of Longbottom Leaf that Amazon made a show of announcing this milestone. “The response to The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has been immense,” Ukonwa Ojo, chief marketing officer of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, said in a statement. “In introducing the upcoming series to viewers, our goal has been to ensure we are positioned at the epicenter of pop culture while remaining true to the Tolkien universe. It’s been incredible to see the amazing reaction to each marketing beat that we unveiled over the past month.”
"By inviting audiences to slowly get familiar with this exciting new chapter in the franchise, we have seen their excitement and insatiable appetite for more build at a feverish pace. The Super Bowl was always designed as the ultimate payoff for fans; a teaser of this magnitude deserved to be debuted during the biggest annual television and sports event of the year. This record-breaking achievement belongs to our fans, and we look forward to continuing to take them on an incredible journey leading up to the fall debut."
That debut is coming September 2. Until then, we’ll be keeping a close eye on how all this rights stuff works out, and of course parsing that teaser trailer for any bit of information we can get about The Rings of Power.