In 1976, film producer and music executive Saul Zaentz (most widely known for Producing films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus) purchased the worldwide film, stage, and merchandise rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings from United Artists–resulting in Ralph Bakshi’s half-finished animated Lord of the Rings Films.
The holding company for those rights was established as Middle Earth Enterprises.
Looks like they’re about to break the bank on selling those rights to some new owners for an expected 2 BILLION DOLLARS. With Amazon paying the Tolkien Estate over $200 million for the rights to The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, it makes a certain amount of sense that the more established brand and characters would be valued at 10 times that.
While Saul Zaentz Co. has declined to comment on this story (per Variety), it is clear that they’ve hired ACF Investment Bank to handle the sale process. Apparently Warner Bros. will still have some film development rights to The Lord of Rings (as they own New Line Cinema).
Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 and we have a glut of under-performing Star Wars properties. With huge Hollywood studios and Big Tech (Amazon, Apple, etc) in the mix for this purchase, I expect we’ll see a similar approach to creating as many stories as possible out of the purchased rights. Let’s pray a business with more restraint ends up with the rights.
Please, go read the books instead 🙂