One does not simply walk into Mordor... without going through court first
Published: June 13, 2014 at 10:39 AM
That's a Variety article detailing the latest in the ongoing legal battle pitting the heirs of author J.R.R. Tolkien and publisher Harper Collins against the Zaentz Co. and Warner Bros. The TL;DR is that the Tolkien heirs are suing Warner et al because Warner and Zaentz licensed online video games for The Lord of the the Rings and the heirs say their 1969 rights deal with the studios allows only the license of games that come in an actual box.
Parties that are burning through thousands of billable hours fighting in court over stuff like that likely aren't anywhere near working together on a potential nine-figure (plus?) deal to expand their disputed licensing deal to allow something as permanent as a new theme park land.
The Tolkien heirs want more money and/or more control than they feel that they are getting. That's discouraging to any potential new partners wanting to license anything having to do with The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. Would you sign a big-money deal with Warner Bros. to develop a new LotR product if you thought that there was even the chance that your project would be held up in court by a lawsuit from the Tolkien family? You'd want to see Warner indemnify you against that before you'd even think about signing the deal, wouldn't you?
And if you're Warner Bros., you certainly don't want to take on the expense of those indemnity clauses if you're anything less than 100-percent certain of what your contract with the Tolkien heirs allows you to do. And that certainty can come only from a court's ruling or a legal settlement, at this point.
So that's where we are, as theme park fans. We are waiting for a court to hand down a ruling, or the parties to come to a settlement, that firmly establishes what can and cannot be licensed and who gets paid what for that. Until the Tolkien heirs can find a way to work together with Warner and Zaentz, they're not going to be able to add any major third party, including theme parks, into their relationship.