Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) has confirmed that they are developing new films in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings franchise.
CEO David Zaslav confirmed the move during their investors call on February 23, 2023.
Per The Hollywood Reporter, WBD and New Line have struck a multiyear pact with rights holders Embracer Group AB, a Swedish gaming company. This allows feature films to be based on Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit books.
The company acquired the rights to produce Lord of the Rings films, games, merchandise, theme park attractions and live productions when it purchased rights holder Middle-earth Enterprises last year from The Saul Zaentz Company.
Lee Guinchard, CEO of Freemode, which is part of Embracer, said in a 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 honour the past, look to the future, and adhere to the strongest level of quality and production values.”
WBD film bosses Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy said in their statement:
“Twenty years ago, New Line took an unprecedented leap of faith to realise 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 honour, and we are excited to partner with Middle-earth Enterprises and Embracer on this adventure.”
Peter Jackson, the director for Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy and his partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens explained they were aware of this development. A statement from the trio says:
“Warner Bros. 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.”
Jackson has previously said that Amazon did approach him to be involved with Rings of Power but didn’t follow up.
Who owns what rights to Tolkien’s works is complicated. A legal dispute went on for ages between WBD and the Tolkien Estate, until it was settled in 2017.
From a consumer standpoint, rival company Amazon has recently released the first series of its show set in The Lord of the Rings world, called Rings of Power. A second series is currently in production, with three more coming afterwards.
A major difference is Rings of Power is set during the Second Age in the Lord of the Rings timeline, whereas the film rights have focused on the Third Age, when most of the well-known Lord of the Rings characters like Bilbo, Frodo, and Aragorn were alive.
New Line Cinema are developing an animated Lord of the Rings film titled The Lord of the Rings: War of the Rohirrim, which is scheduled for a April 12, 2024 release date.