Warner Bros. Pictures is revamping the “Lord of the Rings” film franchise.
On a Thursday earnings call, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav announced that newly-installed studio leaders Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy have brokered a deal to make “multiple” films based on the beloved J. R. R. Tolkien books. The projects will be developed through WB label New Line Cinema. The first “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, helmed by Peter Jackson, grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide; Jackson’s follow-up trilogy based on Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” matched those grosses.
No filmmakers have been attached to the projects as yet, but in a statement to Variety, Jackson and his main “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.”
“We look forward to speaking with them further to hear their vision for the franchise moving forward,” Jackson, Walsh and Boyens said.
Freemode, a division of Embracer Group, made the adaptive rights deal for books including “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” The pact will be billed under the name Middle-earth Enterprises.
Notably, De Luca and Abdy left MGM last year to take the helm of Warner Bros. Their exit followed the acquisition of MGM by Amazon — the tech giant owns the TV rights to “Lord of the Rings” and produced a single season of television at the gut-busting price of over $450 million 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 J.R.R. Tolkien back to the big screen in new and exciting ways,” said Lee Guinchard, CEO of 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.”
De Luca and Abdy recalled that New Line had previously “took an unprecedented leap of faith to realize the incredible stories, characters and world of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ on the big screen … but for all the scope and detail lovingly packed into the two trilogies, the vast, complex and dazzling universe dreamed up by J.R.R. Tolkien remains largely unexplored.”
Inaugural projects and timelines were not immediately disclosed. The first Jackson trilogy starred Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, and Cate Blanchett. That trio of films was nominated for 30 Academy Awards and took home 17 trophies, including best picture for 2003’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”
Warner Bros. has a packed upcoming slate. To round out the second quarter, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” will arrive in a matter of weeks. Kicking off the summer is Ezra Miller’s “The Flash,” followed by the hotly anticipated “Barbie,” from director Greta Gerwig and stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. In August, Jason Statham will face a prehistoric shark yet again in “Meg 2: The Trench,” and New Line will roll out DC’s “Blue Beetle.”
The end of the year will bring a big hit of Timtohee Chalamet, first in “Dune: Part Two,” then in the candyman origin story “Wonka.” The musical “The Color Purple” will close out the year, as will Jason Momoa in “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.”
Adam B. Vary contributed to this story.