Swedish gaming firm Embracer Group has struck a deal to acquire a swathe of rights to IP contained in J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary classics such as The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit, ahead of the big budget drama from Amazon Prime Video set to debut next month.
The Saul Zaentz Company is selling rights to create motion pictures, video & board games, merchandising, theme parks and stage productions relating to the iconic stories by Tolkien, which are held within the Middle-earth Enterprises division.
The deal also includes ‘matching rights’ for Middle-earth related literary works authorised by the Tolkien Estate or Harper Collins, including The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth.
Middle-earth Enterprises will become part of Embracer’s Freemode division once the sale is closed, with the group able to create ‘products’ based on the Tolkien-created IP.
Gandalf & Gollum’s next steps?
Embracer said opportunities include “exploring additional movies” based on characters such as Gandalf, Aragorn, Gollum, Galadriel and Eowyn, “… to provide new opportunities for fans to explore this fictive world through merchandising and other experiences.”
It is not immediately clear whether there is any potential for further TV series to be developed using the acquired rights. The deal struck by Amazon for its The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power were specific, with the streamer acquiring rights to a 50-hour TV show, according to showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay.
Embracer highlighted a raft of “key upcoming works” set in Middle-Earth – and in which Middle-earth Enterprises has financial interests – including the Amazon series, which will premiere on 2 September and is set thousands of years prior to The Lord Of The Rings trilogy and The Hobbit.
Alongside the 50-hour limit, the Amazon show has had to tread carefully around existing IP, notably the Peter Jackson movies that were released two decades ago following a deal between New Line Cinema and The Saul Zaentz Company.
Other video content in the works include an animated movie, The Lord Of The Rings: The War Of The Rohirrim, which is with Warner Bros. and set for release in 2024, while the mobile game The Lord Of The Rings: Heroes Of Middle-Earth is being prepped via Electronic Arts.
Embracer’s $480m spree
The LOTR deal was among a raft of acquisitions revealed today by Embracer, which has also bought Tuxedo Labs, Limited Run Games, Tripwire Interactive, Singtrix and another unnamed company.
Financial details of each transaction have not been revealed, but the company said the cost of all the acquisitions would be 6bn Swedish Kroner ($480m), rising to SKr8.1bn.
Embracer’s operative group Asmodee Group has been closely aligned to the Lord Of The Rings for decades, having licensed rights to produce board games and card games over 20 years ago.
Lars Wingefors, founder & CEO of Embracer Group, said the deal would “open up more transmedia opportunities, including synergies across our global group. Going forward, we also look forward to collaborating with both existing and new external licensees of our increasingly stronger IP portfolio.”
Marty Glick, COO of The Saul Zaentz Company, added: “We at the Zaentz Company have had the honour 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.
“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.”
ACF Investment Bank advised The Saul Zaentz Company on its deal with Embracer.