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Video game conglomerate Embracer Group has agreed to acquire the intellectual property rights in JRR Tolkien’s literary works The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
It will do this by acquiring a second battle proprietor, Middle-earth Enterprises, which acquired the rights to movies, video games, board games, and other rights in the 1970s. Peter Jackson was able to make his Oscar-winning films based on licenses going back to Middle-earth Enterprises.
The price was not disclosed. But it appears that the book rights remain with Tolkien’s estate, which includes the grandchildren and other family members who are the heirs of JRR Tolkien, who died in 1973. I also believe that the rights to some works, such as The Simarillion, the prequel to the stories in The Lord of the Rings, are also held by the estate. Still, the Lord of the Rings appendix contains some of this material.
Now it’s a new era and video games may have more potential than movies. In recognition of this, the Swedish Embracer Group, through its wholly owned subsidiary Freemode, has entered into an agreement to acquire Middle-earth Enterprises, a division of The Saul Zaentz Company, which owns an extensive catalog of intellectual property and worldwide rights to films. , video games, board games, merchandising, theme parks and stage productions relating to JRR Tolkien’s iconic fantasy literary works The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, as well as corresponding rights to other Middle-earth related literary works approved by the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins, which are yet to be explored.
“I’m really excited that The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, one of the world’s most epic fantasy franchises, are joining the Embracer family and opening up more transmedia opportunities, including synergies within our global group,” said Lars Wingefors, group – CEO of Embracer. Group, in a statement. “I’m excited to see what’s next for this IP with Freemode and Asmodee starting within the group. In the future, we also look forward to working with both existing and new third-party licensees of our increasingly strong IP portfolio.”
The property will be acquired through Embracer’s subsidiary Embracer Freemode Iconic Holding Inc. and will be part of the operating group Embracer Freemode.
“We at the Zaentz Company have had the honor of managing the Tolkien rights for the past half century so that Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans around the world could enjoy award-winning epic films, challenging video games, premium theater and all sorts of things. types of merchandise. Marty Glick, chief operating officer of the Saul Zaentz Company, said in a statement. “We couldn’t be happier that Embracer is now taking on the responsibility and we are confident that their group will take it to new heights and dimensions while maintaining tribute to the spirit of these great works of literature.”
Background and reason
Based in Berkeley, California, USA, The Saul Zaentz Company was founded in 1976. It was originally set up as a film production company that produced award-winning films such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
The Saul Zaentz Company acquired its Tolkien rights from the heirs and estate of JRR Tolkien and HarperCollins Publishers, who retain the print publishing rights to JRR Tolkien’s literary works. The Saul Zaentz Company first acquired the rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in 1976, in an agreement with United Artists to produce an animated version of The Lord of the Rings, directed by Ralph Bakshi.
Released in 1978, the film has become a cult classic (but controversial among Tolkien fans like me). In 1998, The Saul Zaentz Company licensed New Line Cinema to enable director Peter Jackson’s live-action trilogies of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The films have grossed more than $6 billion at the box office and won numerous Academy Awards.
Through its Middle-earth Enterprises division, inspired by a deep appreciation for the fictional world created by JRR Tolkien, The Saul Zaentz Company has also produced and licensed a wide variety of successful video games, board games, stage productions and merchandise based on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit for over forty-five years.
Embracer’s operative group Asmodee Group is already one of the most successful licensees of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit through board games and card games, with over a dozen games featuring over 100 expansions since the release of The Lord of the Rings board game over 20 years ago, including classics like The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game and The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth, a fully cooperative, app-supported board game set in JRR Tolkien’s iconic land of Middle -earth. soil.
Major upcoming works set in Middle-earth, in which Middle-earth Enterprises has financial interests, include the critically acclaimed Amazon series The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, which premieres on September 2, set thousands of years before The Hobbit plays and The Lord of the Rings; the animated film The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim (Warner Bros), due out in 2024, and the mobile game The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth (Electronic Arts).
Other opportunities include exploring additional films based on iconic characters such as Gandalf, Aragorn, Gollum, Galadriel, Eowyn and other characters from JRR Tolkien’s literary works, continuing to provide fans with new opportunities to explore this fictional world through merchandising and other experiences .
The acquisition of the rights is in line with Embracer’s IP-driven transmedia strategy. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are among the world’s largest, most enduring iconic entertainment franchises and spawned the fantasy genre.
Middle-earth Enterprises will be part of the newly formed operations group Embracer Freemode. The company will continue to operate independently under Middle-earth Enterprises’ existing leadership team, working closely with Embracer Freemode management and other Embracer operating groups to foster opportunities, growth and synergies within the Group to further build on the great franchise. and expand.
The parties have agreed not to disclose specific terms of the transaction for commercial reasons.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP acted as legal counsel to Embracer Group. Arnold & Porter acted as legal counsel and ACF Investment Bank acted as Investment Banker for The Saul Zaentz Company.
Through Tolkien Enterprises, now Middle-earth Enterprises, Saul Zaentz owned the worldwide film, stage and merchandise rights to JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It also includes “corresponding rights” to Tolkien’s estate film The Silmarillion or The Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth. What it didn’t include were the rights to television shows (for any show longer than eight episodes).
In 1976, Zaentz acquired certain rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit from United Artists, which in turn had bought them directly from Tolkien eight years earlier. In 1978, Zaentz produced an animated version of The Lord of the Rings, primarily written by Peter S. Beagle and directed by animator Ralph Bakshi.
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