The Lord Of The Rings Film And Video Game Rights Just Got Put Up For Sale

Today brings some pretty wild and unexpected news, especially for those who happen to be fans of the works of one J.R.R. Tolkien. It turns out that the film and video game rights to "The Lord of the Rings" are going up for sale, which could mean a gigantic purchase is on the horizon for a studio or streaming service. And when we say gigantic, we're talking the kind of treasure Smaug would be guarding.

According to Variety, what is described as "an array of movie, merchandising, gaming and live event rights" from Tolkien's estate are being put up for sale by Saul Zaentz Co., which currently owns said rights. This includes "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" which, as many of you surely know, were adapted into incredibly successful movies by New Line Cinema and Peter Jackson, to the tune of nearly $6 billion at the global box office. ACF Investment Bank is handling the sale which is said to be going down this week, with the big Hollywood players expected to be in the mix. Think of Amazon, Netflix, Warner Bros., maybe even Disney (even though they already own most marquee franchises out there). The big fish in the Hollywood sea. It is currently expected that the rights will fetch around $2 billion, though I would personally not be shocked to see that number go higher as this all unfolds.

The report notes that Warner Bros. maintains some movie development rights and they are currently working on a "Lord of the Rings" animated film. However, many of the rights have reportedly reverted to Zaentz Co., which is what is making the sale possible. With Amazon getting ready to release its very expensive "Lord of the Rings" TV show later this year, it is believed they are the favorite to land the rights.

A True White Whale Franchise

It is no secret that Hollywood has been franchise-obsessed for years now and the streaming wars have only furthered that agenda. Competition for eyeballs and subscribers has made attention-grabbing IP more valuable than ever. That is partially why we've seen so many high-dollar media mergers go down as of late, and why we're in a seller's market. Hence, cashing in on these "Lord of the Rings" rights now. And to the right buyer, this could be up there with the likes of "Star Wars" or "Harry Potter." A true white whale franchise with endless possibilities of which there are precious few in the world. Tolkien's Middle-earth works are arguably one of them.

A particularly interesting note from the report states that "limited matching rights" are included in this deal for "The Silmarillion" and "The Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth." Essentially, this seems to mean that if anyone wants to make a movie/movies based on these works, whoever lands the rights will have first dibs. That makes the deal all the more valuable as it is more source material to potentially exploit for content.

The video game rights are also well worth singling out. The games industry has boomed and there are billions to be made in that arena. Of note, Amazon had been developing a "Lord of the Rings "MMO game but it was canceled last year. Amazon Game Studios could, in theory, use the rights to help make the high-dollar purchase all the more valuable, in addition to launching a presumed, full-on "Lord of the Rings" cinematic universe.

That will be the end game for anyone vying for the rights, it's just that Amazon is the best example right now given that they already have the show on the way. But hey, Netflix has deep pockets and they could throw some weight around to steal this from the competition. And let's not discount Warner Bros. as they have made a lot of money from this franchise in the past. This will undoubtedly get very interesting in the coming weeks/days and we'll be sure to keep you posted as the action unfolds.