As with Marvel, theme park rights are always a separate entity. On going court battles don't need per se to get in the way of realising a theme park rights construction.If anything these lawyers cost an arm and a leg and a Potter like money maker could fund them for all the shenanigans they are up to in court.
I still hope Universal will end up with the license. I love the movies and they are the only company that can put me in those worlds without rocking me to sleep.
Warner Bros needs to ask the Estate for the theme park rights that they can use to develop their own theme park or reassign to the third party. This can't happen when the parties haven't settled their current dispute.
Now, if such a move can prevent big corporations from further adulterating Tolkien's Middle-earth, it would probably be a very positive outcome...
What does this mean for those of us who want to see a theme park adaptation of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit?
One: This will take some time to resolve. The Tolkien Estate is asking for upwards of $160M in damages, and at that level of damages, this case could take a long time to settle with all of the appeals, countersuits, and motions for delay and/or discovery.
Two: No theme park operator is going to touch the Tolkien franchises until the case is settled and the ownership of the theme park rights is firmly established. (Unless somebody is clever enough to come to agreement with both parties before the suit is resolved.)
Three: Theme park enthusiasts of the LOTR and the Hobbit should probably root for Warner Brothers to prevail since they will probably license the theme park rights fairly quickly to the highest bidder (which will hopefully be Universal and Comcast). If the Tolkien Estate wins, it is anybodys guess as to when if ever they would license the rights to anybody.
Personally, I think the suit by the Tolkien Estate has merit especially when it comes to the use of the names and the characters in online gambling and physical slot machines, but their hand would have been further strengthened if they had shown an actual interest in marketing the rights remaining to them in an active manner instead of sitting on their rear ends looking down their noses at any use of Tolkien's legacy that didn't meet their strict puritanical Tolkien literary standards.