Are you one of the many fans who have been wishing for a theme park, land, or even attraction based on J. R. R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings"? That dream may have become one step closer to becoming reality today. Or, maybe it's a step farther away. As with pretty much everything on this never-ending journey, it's often difficult to tell where things are going.
Here is what we do know. The Saul Zaentz Company, which owns the media rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit through its subsidiary Middle-earth Enterprises (formerly Tolkien Enterprises), has sold Middle-earth Enterprises to video game conglomerate Embracer Group, Embracer announced today.
That gives Embracer the motion picture, stage production, video game, board game, merchandising, and - yes - theme park rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The deal also includes matching rights in any other Middle-earth-related literary works authorized by the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins, including future works.
An immersive land based on The Lord of the Rings long has been a dream for many theme park fans, who have shipped those rights with Universal and Disney in countless online discussions over the years. But Tolkien famously loathed Walt Disney, and the Tolkien family has spurned every offer it has gotten from theme park companies over the years. With the recent passing of the last of Tolkien's children, however, it appears that family at last has stepped away from influence over the media rights for the Middle-earth franchise.
What Embracer will do with those rights is yet to be seen.
"We at the Zaentz Company have had the honor over the past half century of stewarding the Tolkien rights so that Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans worldwide could enjoy award winning epic films, challenging video games, first rate theatre and merchandise of every variety," The Saul Zaentz Company COO Marty Glick said in a statement released by Embracer. "We could not be more thrilled that it is Embracer now taking up the responsibility and we are confident their group will take it to new heights and dimensions while maintaining homage to the spirit of these great literary works."
"I am truly excited to have The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, one of the world’s most epic fantasy franchises join the Embracer family, opening up more transmedia opportunities including synergies across our global group," Embracer Group Founder and Group CEO Lars Wingefors said. "I am thrilled to see what lies in the future for this IP with Freemode and Asmodee as a start within the group. Going forward, we also look forward to collaborating with both existing and new external licensees of our increasingly stronger IP portfolio."
That last sentence sounds to me like an invitation for Universal and Disney to pick up the phone and give Lars a call. I doubt that any other theme park company would be able to match the numbers that Disney and Universal will offer to license the Middle-earth theme for their parks.
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