Film, game and live event merchandising rights are sold by the current owner of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.
Things are about to get interesting in the land of Middle-earth. According to Variety, Zaentz Co. is currently looking to sell its stakes on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchisees. This includes rights for movies, merchandising, games and live events!
The Saul Zaentz Company is the parent company of Middle-Earth Enterprises. The company was formed shortly after JRR Tolkien sold the rights in 1976. Middle-earth Enterprises (originally called Tolkien Enterprises) produced the 1978 adaptation of The Lord of the Rings directed by Ralph Bakshi. From 2001 to 2003 they continued to produce the infamous the Lord of the Rings trilogy directed by Peter Jackson. Over the years, the company has played a role in franchise distribution, production, and merchandising.
Zaentz Co. has already engaged ACF Investment Bank to handle the sale. Bankers will be touring Hollywood to see who will be interested in the franchise. The properties are expected to fetch at least $2 billion depending on popularity and quality of IP.
The timing of this announcement has already sparked the curiosity of fans. Amazon is gearing up for the grand premiere of its highly anticipated super-big-budget TV series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. The show is set to premiere on September 2. Amazon is most certainly a prime candidate to grab the additional rights still held by Zaentz.
Currently, Zaentz holds the right to sue The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit properties in ventures like film, video games, merchandising, live events and theme parks. This also includes limited correspondence rights if Tolkien’s estate wishes to create content based on two particular Tolkien books that were published after the author’s death in 1973, The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth. Warner Bros. also retains some of the film development rights to The Lord of the Rings through its ownership of New Line Cinema. Last year, Warner Bros. announced plans to produce an anime-style theatrical film with New Line and Warner Bros. Animation, The Lord of the Rings: War of the Rohirrim. Despite this, however, Warner Bros. and Zaentz have clashed over the years. Due to the fact that Warner Bros. not developing new content, plus the anticipation of the Amazon series convinced Zaentz it was time to sell.
Company founder Saul Zentz, who died in 2017, acquired the film adaptation of several Tolkien titles in 1976. One particular adaptation that was dropped from the deal in the 1970s was the right to produce a television series which was no more than eight episodes. This loophole specifically allowed Amazon to strike a deal directly with Tolkien’s estate to power rings series in 2017.
Zaentz Co. is currently based in Berkeley, CA. While it’s also home to The Lord of the Rings (for now), the company has a slew of other projects in its history. Zaentz himself began his career as the frontman of Fantasy Records, a jazz and rock label in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. His film work includes producing films such as Flight over a cuckoo’s nest, Amedeeand The English Patient. These three films won the Oscar for best film.
If you’ve been a longtime Middle-earth fan or just started enjoying the immersive fantasy epic, this is sure to be an exciting time. A new home for the franchise will certainly mean more content in the future; the big question, however, will be “How can he hold up?” Despite the film’s premiere twenty years ago, the trilogy still attracts fans. Hopefully, whoever carries these stories treats them as treasured as we all do.
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