Could theme park fans be a step closer toward a Lord of the Rings land?

July 3, 2017, 10:15 PM · The studio that made the Lord of the the Rings and The Hobbit films has settled a lawsuit filed by the estate of late author J.R.R. Tolkien.

The $80 million suit, filed in 2012, alleged that Warner Bros., its subsidiary New Line, and the Saul Zaentz Co. breached their contracts and violating the copyright held by the estate and publisher Harper Collins. The dispute focused on ancillary licensing deals by Warner Bros. for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit IP.

Those ancillary rights were over things such as video games and slot machines — not theme park developments — but so long as all parties were litigating all that other stuff, no deal for a theme park land possibly could get done.

The parties involved filed on June 29 a stipulation to dismiss the suit "with prejudice as to all parties, " which is legalese meaning that no one can come back and re-file the suit at a later date. Which means... and I apologize for this...

It's over. It's done

So will this mean that Warner Bros. is now free to negotiate a licensing deal to develop a theme park land based on these enduring franchises? We don't know, since neither party is talking about whatever they decided amongst themselves on the way to dismissing the lawsuit.

Maybe they decided that Warner Bros. can license some things but not others. Or that Warner Bros. can do whatever it wants, provided it writes a bigger check to the estate. Or that Warner Bros. is just going to ignore LOTR for a while as it works to put together that big Wonder Woman/Harry Potter crossover that will allow it finally to pass up Marvel and Disney.

Okay, probably not that last one.

But we do know this: Any plans for a Lord of the Rings/Hobbit theme park land were dead and buried as long as that lawsuit was in play. Now, there's at least a chance that Warner Bros. could move forward with a theme park development. It still might not happen, but it's more likely now that it was a month ago.

Replies (22)

July 4, 2017 at 6:18 AM · This would be a great anchor for Universal's 4th gate in Orlando. Combined with extensions of the Harry Potter, Nintendoland, and Jurassic Park (world) IP, and quite a park could be brewing!!
July 4, 2017 at 6:32 AM · I would not be surprised if universal has already entered negotiations to acquire the theme park rights for its parks
July 4, 2017 at 7:04 AM · I would love to visit a Lord of the Rings area. Tour the shire. Eat some lembas bread. Get chased by a balrog. Sounds like a good theme park addition.
July 4, 2017 at 8:18 AM · It's a fascinating idea, and I'd love to see it happen. Universal does seem more likely given their track record.
July 4, 2017 at 9:50 AM · I would assume the Estate would require theme park rights to be negotiated separately from movie and merchandise rights. That was their original concern that their rights were taken for granted. Universal would seem to be the best choice of a developer. There's a ton of loose IP just waiting for the right company to take on.
July 4, 2017 at 10:00 AM · I agree with DBCooper, this would be the anchor for the 4th gate. I cannot see Universal using it at either USF or IoA as it would compete with Potter. My crystal ball is saying Universal, a new park, Orlando, parcel bought end of 2015 down I-drive.
July 4, 2017 at 3:16 PM · I can see them converting the lost continent and that area into it, you could easily make that area look a bit like Minas Tirith, or even Erebor I don't want them to, I want a new world(s) for it, (that would actually get me to book another trip) but combining that with a fourth gate and linking the two (ala Harry Potter worlds)
July 4, 2017 at 5:21 PM · Lord of the RIngs, Fantastic Beasts , DreamWorks , Jurassic World .
I'm hoping that's these lands are in Unuversals New Park . Would be amazing
July 4, 2017 at 8:49 PM · That's exactly what I was going to say, DBCooper! This new possible new park would be great, and could take Universal to the next level! So many great IPs, and such a large space! I'm excited, though that is still gonna take a while.
July 4, 2017 at 9:51 PM · As long as Christopher Tolkien is in charge of the family enterprises, it will never happen for any price. The question will be what will happen when a new ownership runs the family trust, but it would not surprise me in the least if there were not some prohibitions now that they have full control. The legal settlement will make it harder, not easier, as the family, with one exception has been extremely critical of all films, games, and adaptations. From what I have read only a strict interpretation is acceptable, and a theme park would be the last thing they would want. I could be wrong, and the information I read could have been posturing for the ongoing legal battles.
July 4, 2017 at 11:00 PM · Spoiled brats. Must be nice, having a never-ending income just because your grandfather wrote great books.
July 5, 2017 at 5:49 AM · If the family didn't want to make additional money on the IP, they never would have licensed it out to make the movies. As Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley have proven, Universal can keep things extremely strict in its interpretation of source material.

I think we'll get our LOTR land, eventually. Rivendell water ride? Check. Mines of Moria dark coaster? Check. Hobbiton village with shops and restaurants? Check. I'll be drinking Miruvor and eating Honey-cake for my second breakfast.

July 5, 2017 at 8:12 AM · Just because this lawsuit is settled, I don't think it brings us any closer to LOTR coming to a theme park setting. The Tolkien family still controls the strings on the IP, and with the six (6) Peter Jackson films fading quickly into the past, the price parks would be willing to pay to use LOTR will continue to decrease, while Christopher Tolkien will take any future application of his father's works to his grave. WB has a decent chance of re-imagining the series, and is reportedly in the process of searching for creative teams to reboot the franchise (though I don't know of any director that would put the level of detail or passion into it than Jackson did). Clearly any Western theme park would want to use the Jackson version of the IP because of the immense popularity of his films, but WB may not be interested in competing with a new visualization of Tolkien's world on the drawing board.

It would take a very special deal to get this done, and I just don't see it happening in our lifetime, even with this obvious roadblock cleared.

July 5, 2017 at 8:23 AM · Tolkien estate utterly insufferable snobs about "authenticity" regarding their little fairy tale of elves and orcs.
July 5, 2017 at 9:31 AM · From what I understand, the family did not license it, the Saul Zaentz Co. is how the lisencing came to Warner Brothers. All that was done a long time ago before the books were popular at all. The rights to the Hobbit was even more messed up. The interesting thing about the family is that they could make a lot more money but chose not to, apparently due to the wishes of Tolkien, and that Christopher is very protective of the works and highly dislikes the movies and how they changed the spirit of the novels. You never know, of course.
July 5, 2017 at 9:56 AM · Christopher Tolkien is 92 years old, he won't control the rights forever.

The movies inspired people to read or re-read the novels, which already had their own following.

July 5, 2017 at 1:45 PM · If the Saul Zaentz Co and/or Warner Brothers managed to get the theme park rights included in the settlement, then we'll see a LOTR/Hobbit land in a theme park somewhere soon, most likely Universal.

But, if the rights reside with the Tolkien estate, then it will be 20 years down the road when the members of the Tolkien estate are one or two generations after Christopher Tolkien and the money from the franchise may have run low or may have to be spread out over a larger number of family members. At that point, the floodgates will open and we'll see a reboot of the movies and new lands in theme parks.

(And if I'm not in the Alzheimer's section of the nursing home, I'll pack up the Depends, head to the park, and rent me one of those electric scooters so I can run over obnoxious teenagers while racing to the queue.)

July 5, 2017 at 1:55 PM · There is no technology today to make a decent LOTR theme park...
July 5, 2017 at 2:04 PM · Tim -- your last paragraph cracked me up. You, like myself, are a true die-hard theme park fan.

Flavio -- part of the fun of new attractions is seeing cutting-edge and existing technology come together in a way that defines a new experience.

July 6, 2017 at 6:16 AM · "At that point, the floodgates will open and we'll see a reboot of the movies and new lands in theme parks."

That's the thing Tim, WB is already investing money right now to reboot LOTR. It's no secret that WB has been shopping around for a new creative team to launch another LOTR franchise, so barring some unknown legal hurdles, it's likely that we'll see another Middle Earth movie hit the big screens within the next 5 years or so.

July 6, 2017 at 10:34 AM · A lot of people are talking Universal, but with the amazing job Disney did with Pandora, I would love to see Middle Earth placed inside Disney's Animal Kingdom. It would be perfect to have a mashup of Rivendell, Mordor, The Shire and the Lonely Mountain placed in between Pandora and Africa. Knowing Disney, they would do it justice.
July 6, 2017 at 1:19 PM · A reboot?? Oh brother. No way they'll be as good as the Peter Jackson movies.

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