The media is buzzing with the prospect of a Lord of the Rings television adaptation, with both Variety and Deadline reporting that early stage negotiations have begun between Warner Bros and Amazon. Variety states that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is directly involved in the negotiations. Problematic are, firstly, the claims that the Tolkien Estate itself is ‘shopping’ the series, and secondly, that the Tolkien Estate approached HBO as a serious contender for the series.

The film rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are owned by the Saul Zaentz Company. The Tolkien estate have only just settled a bitter five-year legal dispute over the exploitation of the digital rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, after Warner Bros attempted to enter into a contract with  casino to produce The Hobbit themed slot machines amongst other nefarious activities. Although Variety states that “the series is being shopped by Warner Bros. marks a thaw in the relationship between the studio and the Tolkien estate”, the Tolkien estate still has no legal control over the film rights.

Deadline goes on to report rumours that Amazon, Netflix and HBO had been approached about the project, with rights payment said to be in the $200 – $250 million range. Deadline reports less-than-positive feedback about the proposed project, with industry sources saying that there are already three great Middle earth films, that the cost of the rights is prohibitive and that the rights offered would be restrictive, with not all characters included.

At this stage information is thin on the ground, but the Saul Zaentz Company’s Middle Earth Enterprises owns the film rights from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit books, which gives a fairly large scope for stories from The Lord of the Rings appendices. It seems extremely unlikely that Christopher Tolkien, who holds the authorial copyright on The Silmarillion and other posthumously published works by his father, will be offering up any material for more film adaptations.


About The Author

Olga Hughes is currently pre-occupied with fairy tales, fantasy, misanthropy, medieval history and the long eighteenth century. She has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts and is currently majoring in Literature and History at Deakin. She has contributed to websites such as History behind Game of Thrones, The Anne Boleyn Files and The Tudor Society.

9 Responses

  1. Jasmine

    Why do some companies remake the same stuff over and over? Have they run out of ideas? I see that Four Weddings and Funeral is to be turned into an American series reportedly of five seasons. I am not sure the humour of the original will survive that!

    • Olga Hughes

      They remake a lot of British shows in the US, we don’t hear about most of them probably because they don’t survive the first season.

  2. Underdogge

    I never read “Lord of the Rings” though I did listen to (some) of a BBC radio adaptation in 1981. That worked quite well because one could use one’s imagination. Also, whilst I am probably one of the worst housekeepers imaginable and loathe household chores one can do a bit of ironing while listening to the radio and does not have to sit still and watch as one does with TV. It’s a bit soon after the LoR films really in my view to consider a TV adaptation.

    I’m hoping we aren’t going to get too many fantasy programmes over the next few years. I like a gripping sword and sorcery show as much as the next person but if a plethora of channels try to jump on the GoT bandwagon it could be counter-productive and turn people off the fantasy genre. I’ve read that there are already plans to dramatise the “Wheel of Time” and “Witcher” books. I haven’t read either of those but from what information I can glean they might be more complicated to adapt than ASOIAF and some people became disenchanted because of changes made in adaptation of ASOIAF, the depiction of book characters being altered when transferred to show personae and that type of thing. Maybe an animated version of LoR for TV might work but would that be terriby expensive?

    I agree with Jasmine that we do need some original content on TV really.

    • Olga Hughes

      The Wheel of Time books have been rumoured to get an adaptation for about twenty years, along with Raymond E Feist’s books. I don’t think there is any danger of getting too many fantasy shows, they cost a lot to produce. Generally this era of fantasy books is very traditional and your HBOs would have a hard time exploiting women and chopping heads off.

  3. Underdogge

    Should have said ‘terribly’ above.

    While bewailing some lack of original material on TV I will probably watch any remake of “Pride and Prejudice” (though the 1995 TV production will likely remain the definitive one for me) or of a Thomas Hardy novel or Charles Dickens book. Maybe one day somebody will make a version of “Far from the Madding Crowd” with a book accurate Bathsheba….

    As the recent(ish) adaptation of (some of) the Poldark novels has been fairly successful, there are a load of other books by Winson Graham that could be adapted. The Alfred Hitchcock adaptation of “Marnie” really had very little in common with the book. Mr Graham’s other novels are as far as I recall (though I haven’t read them all) standalone works.

    • Olga Hughes

      I think they’re taking the current Poldark to a fifth season and then they’ll be out of material (it moves on to the younger generation by book 7 or 8). I will watch any remake of any classic anytime.

      With that said BBC is making His Dark Materials which is all I care about right now.

  4. Jasmine

    I would really like to see some new material of good quality.

  5. Underdogge

    I’ve never seen the Outlander series but because it has been popular it seems there are some Scots-themed shows in the pipeline. There’s a film about Mary Queen of Scots (hopefully more faithful to history than Reign) planned with Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie as Margaret and Elizabeth respectively. Neither of them are Scots but I’ve heard they are good actresses. There’s also something about Robert the Bruce said to be in the works. I don’t know who (if anybody) they have cast in that.

    For myself, I have not been too fond of Starz’ and Showtime’s offerings but they have tried to develop new material, albeit the material has not been to my personal taste. Maybe they’ll get it right sometime. Though I must admit there have been some silly shows I’ve liked.

  6. Underdogge

    My above comment is a bit confusing I think – when I said there have been some silly shows that I have liked over the years despite their silliness I’m not saying such shows have been put forward by Starz and Showtime.