Cinema is heading back to Middle-earth, with Warner Bros. and New Line signing a deal to make more adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
Warner Bros. Discovery’s chief executive, David Zaslav, announced on Thursday on an earnings call that a deal had been brokered to make “multiple” films based on JRR Tolkien’s books. The cost of the deal with Embracer Group, the Swedish gaming company that owns the rights to most of Tolkien’s world, has yet to be revealed.
The films will be developed through the Warner Bros production company New Line Cinema, which produced the trilogy made by the director Peter Jackson between 2001 and 2003. Those films grossed almost $3bn around the world, with the third installment, The Return of the King , winning 11 Oscars including best picture at the Academy Awards.
In a joint statement to Variety, Jackson and his two closest Lord of the Rings collaborators, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, said Warner Bros and Embracer “have kept us in the loop every step of the way” about the new films.
“We look forward to speaking with them further to hear their vision for the franchise moving forward,” Jackson, Walsh and Boyens said.
Embracer acquired rights to The Lord of the Rings films, games, merchandise, theme parks and live productions when it bought Middle-earth Enterprises in 2022.
“Following our recent acquisition of Middle-earth Enterprises, we’re thrilled to embark on this new collaborative journey with New Line Cinema and Warner Bros Pictures, bringing the incomparable world of JRR Tolkien back to the big screen in new and exciting ways,” said Lee Guinchard, the chief executive of Embracer Freemode.
“We understand how cherished these works are and working together with our partners at New Line Cinema and Warner Bros Pictures, we plan to honor the past, look to the future, and adhere to the strongest level of quality and production values.”
The new heads of the Warner Bros. film division, Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy, who oversee Warner films and New Line, are behind the new multi-year deal that will mean the studio can develop feature films based on both Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books and The Hobbit.
De Luca and Abdy said New Line “took an unprecedented leap of faith” on Tolkien’s world two decades ago, but signaled that any new films would not necessarily revisit what Jackson’s films had covered, saying: “For all the scope and detail lovingly packed into the two trilogies, the vast, complex and dazzling universe dreamed up by JRR Tolkien remains largely unexplored.”
Zaslav, who has overseen major cuts at Warner Bros Discovery after the media conglomerate formed from a merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery Inc last year, has talked about the need for more film franchises to make profits. The media conglomerate disclosed a $2.1bn loss on Thursday, mostly attributed to writedowns and cuts from the merger.
New Line and Warner Bros Animation are working on The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim, an animated film set 183 years before the events in The Lord of the Rings. The film, which expands on the story of Helm Hammerhand, a legendary leader of the kingdom of Rohan, is slated to be released in cinemas in April 2024.
Amazon continues to own the TV rights to The Lord of the Rings. The tech giant’s first show, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, cost more than $450m to make.