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Embracer Group acquires rights to Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit through Middle-earth Enterprises

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Video game conglomerate Embracer Group has agreed to acquire the intellectual property rights to JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit literary works.

It will do this by acquiring a secondary fight holder, Middle-earth Enterprises, which acquired the rights to motion pictures, video games, board games and other rights in the 1970s. Peter Jackson was able to realize his Oscar-winning films based on licenses traced back to Middle-earth Enterprises.

The price was not disclosed. But it appears that the rights to the book remain with Tolkien’s estate, which includes the grandchildren and other family members who are heirs to JRR Tolkien, who died in 1973. I also believe that the rights to certain works , such as The Simarillion, the prequel to The Lord of the Rings stories, are also kept by the estate. Yet the Lord of the Rings appendix contains some of this material.

It’s now a new era and maybe video games have more potential than movies. In recognition of this, 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 has an extensive catalog of intellectual property and worldwide rights to films, video games, board games, merchandising, theme parks and stage productions related to iconic works of fantasy literature The Lord of the Rings trilogy and JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit, as well as corresponding rights to others literary works related to Middle-earth authorized by the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins, which have not yet been explored.

“I am truly thrilled that The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, one of the world’s most epic fantasy franchises, is joining the Embracer family, opening up more transmedia opportunities, including synergies within our global group” , said Lars Wingefors, CEO of Embracer Group. Group, in a press release. “I am delighted to see what the future holds for us for this IP with Freemode and Asmodee as a seed within the group. Going forward, we also look forward to collaborating with existing and new external licensees from our growing intellectual property portfolio. »

The property will be acquired through subsidiary Embracer Freemode Iconic Holding Inc. and will become part of the Embracer Freemode operating group.

“We at the Zaentz Company have had the honor for the past half century of managing the rights to Tolkien so that Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans around the world can enjoy award-winning epic films, video games challenging, top-notch theater and merchandise of all kinds,” Saul Zaentz Company COO Marty Glick said in a statement. “We couldn’t be more thrilled that Embracer is now taking on responsibility and we are confident that their group will take it to new heights and dimensions while maintaining a tribute to the spirit of these great works of literature.”

Background and rationale

It will look like this in more blocking… OK, so it won’t look like this.

The Saul Zaentz company based in Berkeley, California, USA, was founded in 1976. It was initially established as a film production company, which produced award-winning films such as One Flew Over a Bird’s Nest. Hello.

The Saul Zaentz Company acquired its rights to Tolkien from the Heirs and Estate of JRR Tolkien and HarperCollins Publishers, who retain the rights to publish JRR Tolkien’s literary works in print. The Saul Zaentz Company first acquired the rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in 1976, as part of a deal with United Artists to produce an animated version of The Lord of the Rings, which will be directed by Ralph Bakshi.

The movie was released in 1978 and became a cult classic (but controversial among Tolkien fans like me). In 1998, The Saul Zaentz Company licensed New Line Cinema to license director Peter Jackson’s live-action trilogies of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The films have grossed over $6 billion at the box office and won numerous Oscars.

Through its Middle-earth Enterprises division, The Saul Zaentz Company, inspired by a deep appreciation of the fictional world created by JRR Tolkien, has also produced and licensed a wide variety of video games, board games, stage productions and bestselling merchandise based on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit for over forty-five years.

Embracer’s operating group, Asmodee Group, is already one of the most successful licensees of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit across board games and card games, having published over a dozen games with over than 100 expansions since the release of The Lord of the Rings board game. over 20 years ago, including classics such as 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 that takes place in JRR Tolkien’s iconic country, Middle-earth. Earth.

Major upcoming works set in Middle-earth, in which Middle-earth Enterprises has a financial interest, include the highly-announced Amazon series The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power which will premiere September 2, taking place thousands years before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; the animated film The Lord of the Rings: War of the Rohirrim (Warner Bros), which is scheduled for release 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, and continues to provide new opportunities for fans of explore this fictional world through merchandising and other experiences. .

The rights acquisition is part of Embracer’s IP-based transmedia strategy. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are among the world’s largest and most enduring iconic entertainment franchises and birthed the fantasy genre.

Middle-earth Enterprises will be part of the new Embracer Freemode operating group. The company will continue to operate independently under the existing Middle-earth Enterprises management team, working closely with Embracer Freemode management and other Embracer operating groups to drive opportunity, growth and synergies. within the group in order to continue to build and develop the great franchise.

The parties have agreed not to disclose the specific terms of the transaction for business reasons.

Advisors

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 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 TV show rights (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, who had in turn purchased them directly from Tolkien eight years previously. In 1978, Zaentz produced an animated version of The Lord of the Rings, written primarily by Peter S. Beagle and directed by animator Ralph Bakshi.

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