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.