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The Lounge => Media and Inspiration => Topic started by: Reckall on August 21, 2022, 08:12:18 AM

Title: The Embracer Group buys Middle-earth Enterprises
Post by: Reckall on August 21, 2022, 08:12:18 AM
Earlier this year news came that the rights for "everything Tolkien" (i.e. Middle-earth Enterprises, the "box" created by Saul Zaentz to manage these rights) were up for sale. That Amazon would have been the buyer was considered a given. This didn't happen. While now there is a lot of confusion about what who can do, there are some hot takes - including for the gaming world.

- The Embracer Group is a Swedish "umbrella" company. Among their subsidiaries we have Asmodeus (the owners, among other things, of Fantasy Flights Games) and a lot of videogame companies.

- They can now do everything based on Tolkien: movies, TV shows, comics, games, role-playing games, videogames, even theme parks. They can also license these rights to third parts. The rights include all the writings of Tolkien - including his shopping lists I guess.

- That Amazon wasn't the buyer is astounding. Identity politics aside, one of the troubles "The Rings of Power" is having is that Amazon owns the rights to whatever is told about the Second Age in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and the appendixes. Amazon could have said "tell me what the highest offer is and I'll double it." They could have re-done The Lord of the Rings for streaming (beside doing the next four seasons of TRoP with finally the rights on The Silmarillion and the Unfinished Tales). But they didn't. Is this a sign that Amazon lost confidence in their ability to do Tolkien? For sure it is not a good sign, also because...

- Embracer made eight acquisitions at the same time so it is impossible to know what they spent for Middle-earth Enterprises. However, it is known that they spent about $770-$780 millions for all eight. Considering that MEE is the crown jewel, it is realistic to assume that the biggest check went there. No matter what, when the first rumbles about the rights sale were heard, they were valued $2 billions. This was not a rumor but the official figure put out by the Saul Zaentz Company

- Embracer doesn't own the Lord of the Rings. This is a common misconception. They now own the rights to adapt it (and all other writings by Tolkien) in various media. Existing contracts (like The Rings of Power, Warner's War of the Rohirrim or videogame licenses) remain valid - Embracer just inherited them. There are already talks, however, about doing either movies or shows based on specific characters, like a young Aragorn or what Gandalf did before The Lord of the Rings. Per press release:

"Other opportunities include exploring additional movies based on iconic characters such as Gandalf, Aragorn, Gollum, Galadriel, Eowyn and other characters from the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and continue to provide new opportunities for fans to explore this fictive world through merchandising and other experiences."

...So, basically we will have the TEU - Tolkien Expanded Universe.

- It is unclear when this contract will be valid. To be clearer, sometimes you buy the rights to something and immediately you can start doing things with the IP. Some other times you can start, let's say, after two years. This because the previous owner wants to put out the final movies/shows/games before someone else starts doing his own thing. Doing "The Silmarillion" with full access to Tolkien writing while Amazon gasps for air would be too fun for words. We can only wait.
Title: Re: The Embracer Group buys Middle-earth Enterprises
Post by: Ghostmaker on August 21, 2022, 11:01:37 AM
So basically, Embracer has the right to make something like Shadow of Mordor/Shadow of War?

Hm.

I'm still gobsmacked that Amazon decided they wanted to do a Second Age series and didn't bother to buy the rights to Unfinished Tales or the Silmarillion.
Title: Re: The Embracer Group buys Middle-earth Enterprises
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on August 21, 2022, 01:42:15 PM
Tolkien Expanded Universe? Oh, this is going to be a horrible mess if the other EUs are anything to go by
Title: Re: The Embracer Group buys Middle-earth Enterprises
Post by: hedgehobbit on August 22, 2022, 12:03:37 PM
Well, Tolkien had a pretty good run. Now we need to find the next big fantasy franchise to be a fan of.

The most surprising thing to me isn't the sale, but the fact that Tolkien appears to have sold the merch rights to his books in perpetuity. It is crazy to me that these authors don't put a time limit on the sale of their franchise so they can, at least, get a new payment in the future. Marvel made the same mistake with the movie rights to Spider-man and the X-Men. Having to buy the company just to get X-Men back.
Title: Re: The Embracer Group buys Middle-earth Enterprises
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on August 22, 2022, 08:49:30 PM
Well, Tolkien had a pretty good run. Now we need to find the next big fantasy franchise to be a fan of.

The most surprising thing to me isn't the sale, but the fact that Tolkien appears to have sold the merch rights to his books in perpetuity. It is crazy to me that these authors don't put a time limit on the sale of their franchise so they can, at least, get a new payment in the future. Marvel made the same mistake with the movie rights to Spider-man and the X-Men. Having to buy the company just to get X-Men back.
The Marvel deal did have a time limit, but it was a conditional limit (this is common practice for such contracts). Sony and Fox had to keep making movies to retain the rights, which they did. Sony actually was in danger of losing the rights because they couldn't justifying making more movies to their investors (so apparently the agreement must have some kind of minimum cost specified so they can't cheat it by producing cheap crap that screens in one cinema for two minutes), but was able to retain the rights by making an agreement with Marvel. The only reason that happened was probably because Marvel decided that it was more important to bring spiderman into the MCU then rather than wait for the rights to revert.

And now Sony is bungling their new spiderverse movies, so I imagine they're either going to lose the rights after more failures or they're gonna surrender and make another agreement with Marvel for a cut of the profits.

But Tolkien's legal agreement definitely looks like it was made to rip him off. I'm guessing the lawyers thought that since he was a vulnerable old man that they could get away with it.

Tolkien's works will enter the public domain (https://askmiddlearth.tumblr.com/post/77787885183/) on the following dates:

Title: Re: The Embracer Group buys Middle-earth Enterprises
Post by: Reckall on August 23, 2022, 11:43:30 AM
And now Sony is bungling their new spiderverse movies, so I imagine they're either going to lose the rights after more failures or they're gonna surrender and make another agreement with Marvel for a cut of the profits.

Dunno about "bungling". Their animated multiverse movie won a Oscar and the movies done in partnership with Marvel are the best thing Marvel put out in the last few years (I'm the only one in the multiverse who didn't like "Spiderman No way Home": everyone else says that it is among the best superhero movies ever made).

Quote
But Tolkien's legal agreement definitely looks like it was made to rip him off. I'm guessing the lawyers thought that since he was a vulnerable old man that they could get away with it.

No. Tolkien made that agreement when it was simply impossible to do a Lord of the Rings movie. TV shows were primitive, comics were uninterested and, generally speaking, there was no modern concept of "franchise" (with toys, games, videogames, theme parks etc.) That started with Star Wars, four years after Tolkien's death. True, Disney was already doing it, but Tolkien, business-wise, was no Disney in scope and importance - only two good fantasy novels' worth.

(It is worth remembering how Star Wars caught everyone flat footed: Lucas asked for the merchandising rights and they said "OK, whatever". Mark Hamill, who already was an avid collector of memorabilia, had a clause in his contract that granted him "a copy of all the tie-in items". He expected the novelization, the soundtrack and some comic books. One day he opened the door and there were two big trucks full of things for him. And it never stopped. Hamill said that "It was like 'The Sorcerer Apprentice', with the brooms bringing from toys to "Star Wars vegetables", over and over and over." He literally had to formally ask for Lucasfilm to stop.)

Anyway, Tolkien also had put out "The Lord of the Rings" (unfilmable) and The Hobbit (maybe). The rest was put out by his son after his death. For this he got 100,000 pounds (a fortune, considering inflation) that he destined to his sons' University found. Neither Tolkien nor no one pre-Star Wars could fathom the future of entertainment
Title: Re: The Embracer Group buys Middle-earth Enterprises
Post by: Ghostmaker on August 24, 2022, 08:40:56 AM
(It is worth remembering how Star Wars caught everyone flat footed: Lucas asked for the merchandising rights and they said "OK, whatever". Mark Hamill, who already was an avid collector of memorabilia, had a clause in his contract that granted him "a copy of all the tie-in items". He expected the novelization, the soundtrack and some comic books. One day he opened the door and there were two big trucks full of things for him. And it never stopped. Hamill said that "It was like 'The Sorcerer Apprentice', with the brooms bringing from toys to "Star Wars vegetables", over and over and over." He literally had to formally ask for Lucasfilm to stop.)
That is fucking hilarious. And yeah, the insane popularity of Star Wars really caught everyone off guard. Alec Guinness may have hated the role, but it was arguably one of, if not THE, most profitable ones in his career.
Title: Re: The Embracer Group buys Middle-earth Enterprises
Post by: Banjo Destructo on August 25, 2022, 02:12:40 PM
Well, Tolkien had a pretty good run. Now we need to find the next big fantasy franchise to be a fan of.

The most surprising thing to me isn't the sale, but the fact that Tolkien appears to have sold the merch rights to his books in perpetuity. It is crazy to me that these authors don't put a time limit on the sale of their franchise so they can, at least, get a new payment in the future. Marvel made the same mistake with the movie rights to Spider-man and the X-Men. Having to buy the company just to get X-Men back.

It's not fantasy per say, but Lous L'amour's  89 novels are pretty good and he was very popular back in the 60's and 70's,  and all are still in print today. I'd say they're worth reading if you haven't already.
Title: Re: The Embracer Group buys Middle-earth Enterprises
Post by: Lurkndog on August 27, 2022, 01:18:55 PM
(It is worth remembering how Star Wars caught everyone flat footed: Lucas asked for the merchandising rights and they said "OK, whatever". Mark Hamill, who already was an avid collector of memorabilia, had a clause in his contract that granted him "a copy of all the tie-in items". He expected the novelization, the soundtrack and some comic books. One day he opened the door and there were two big trucks full of things for him. And it never stopped. Hamill said that "It was like 'The Sorcerer Apprentice', with the brooms bringing from toys to "Star Wars vegetables", over and over and over." He literally had to formally ask for Lucasfilm to stop.)

There is a great epsiode of the Netflix documentary series The Toys That Made Us that talks about Kenner toys and how they got the Star Wars action figure license. Basically, Kenner was a rinky dink little toy company at the time, they had never really had any kind of a hit toy, but they bid on the rights for Star Wars before the movie came out, based only on the designs they had seen, and their offer was accepted because nobody else made a bid.

The result was the most lucrative movie tie-in property in history, and Kenner would basically remake the toy industry in their own image.
Title: Re: The Embracer Group buys Middle-earth Enterprises
Post by: Lurkndog on August 27, 2022, 01:28:05 PM
Well, Tolkien had a pretty good run. Now we need to find the next big fantasy franchise to be a fan of.

The most surprising thing to me isn't the sale, but the fact that Tolkien appears to have sold the merch rights to his books in perpetuity. It is crazy to me that these authors don't put a time limit on the sale of their franchise so they can, at least, get a new payment in the future. Marvel made the same mistake with the movie rights to Spider-man and the X-Men. Having to buy the company just to get X-Men back.

It's not fantasy per say, but Lous L'amour's  89 novels are pretty good and he was very popular back in the 60's and 70's,  and all are still in print today. I'd say they're worth reading if you haven't already.

A ton of them have already been adapted into movies, thanks to the cowboy boom of the 1950s and 1960s. And, yeah, those books are absolute classics. Lamour was one of those authors who did his research so thoroughly that by the end of his career, he had become a historical reference himself.