Video game company Embracer Group AB THQQF is purchasing several rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchises that could bring theme parks and more movies to fans of the J.R.R. Tolkien books.
What Happened: Embracer announced Thursday the acquisition of Middle-earth Enterprises, which owns the intellectual property rights and worldwide rights to movies, video games, board games, merchandising, theme parks and stage productions for “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit,” famous books by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Embracer also acquired matching rights for several literary works by Tolkien and HarperCollins that have “yet to be explored.” Variety reported that this includes “The Silmarillion” and “The Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth,” two compilation literary works published after Tolkien’s death in 1973.
“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. I am thrilled to see what lies in the future for this IP,” Embracer Group founder and CEO Lars Wingefors said.
Middle-earth Enterprises was sold by The Saul Zaentz Company, which acquired the rights to "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" in 1976. The heirs and estate of J.R.R. Tolkien and HarperCollins Publishers, a unit of News Corp NWS, maintain print publication rights for Tolkien’s works.
Live-action movies based on "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" for New Line Cinema and Warner Bros., both units of Warner Bros Discovery WBD, have grossed more than $1.8 billion domestically and over $6 billion worldwide.
A new operative group called Embracer Freemode would manage the rights under the Embracer umbrella. A purchase price for Middle-earth Enterprises was not disclosed.
About Embracer: Known as the owner of several video game companies, Embracer owns or controls more than 850 franchises and is a leader in the gaming space for PC, console, mobile and board games, along with a growing presence in other media.
Embracer-owned Asmodee Group is an existing licensor of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit for board games and cards games with more than 100 expansions released over the past 20 years.
The company owns Dark Horse Comics, publisher of comics for well-known franchises like Sin City, 300, Hellboy and Star Wars. The unit was acquired in March 2022 by Embracer.
Embracer also owns Gearbox Entertainment, the company behind the Borderlands game franchise. In May 2022, Embracer acquired Square Enix giving it the Tomb Raider and Deus Ex gaming franchises.
What’s Next: Embracer said it looks forward to collaborating with “existing and new external licensees” for the rights to "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit."
“The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power” is set to premiere on Amazon.com, Inc. AMZN-owned Prime Video on Sep. 2, 2022. The series is one of the most-anticipated new shows of 2022. An animated movie “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim” from Warner Bros. is set for a 2024 release.
Embracer said it has a financial interest in the show and movie.
A mobile game called “The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth” from Electronic Arts Inc. EA is also listed as a future product that Embracer has a financial interest in.
Fans of "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" might be excited to hear that the acquisition by Embracer could lead to additional movies.
“Other opportunities include exploring additional movies based on Gandalf, Aragorn, Gollum, Galadriel, Eowyn and other iconic characters from the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien and continue to provide new opportunities for fans to explore the fictive world through merchandising and other experiences,” the company said.
Variety points to previous litigation between the Tolkien estate and Warner Bros. over the movies, which was settled out of court in 2017. A disagreement between the Zaentz Company and Warner Bros. over rights has also been developing over the year with an argument over rights being lapsed.
Television rights were not part of the original rights acquired by Zaentz, which is how Amazon negotiated with the Tolkien estate instead of Embracer, which could bring the company’s claims on a financial interest in the upcoming show into question.
Fans of the franchise may be interested to see theme parks included in the rights landed by Embracer. Rumors of Walt Disney Co. DIS and Comcast Corporation CMCSA owned Universal Studios wanting to open a theme park inspired by literary works have popped up over the years.
Inside the Magic reported Universal has been in talks for the rights for decades.
Universal is working on introducing Nintendo Co NTDOY-inspired areas at its theme parks.
With Embracer owning the rights, talks for a Middle Earth theme park could heat up.
As the owner of several video game studios, fans will likely see more The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit games in the future.
Photo: Screenshot of "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" via The LotrTV on YouTube
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