The Lord of the Rings has always been an incredibly popular franchise, spanning games and shows, and now the rights for some of it are going up for auction. According to a report by Variety, "An array of movie, merchandising, gaming, and live event rights to The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and other titles from ... Tolkien are coming up for auction."
Experts in the field think that the rights may go for over $2 billion. Apparently, Amazon is the leading contender given the fact that it has a show in the works called The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Hopefully, companies like Microsoft and Sony will also place offers because the gaming rights seem quite appealing.
However, there's a lot of legal grey area. According to the same report, Warner Bros. maintains some film development rights to The Lord of the Rings through its ownership of New Line Cinema. It's also made games in the past. However, the current rights holder, The Saul Zaentz Company, says that "substantial live-action film rights reverted back to it last year" because Warner Bros. hasn't developed new content with the franchise for years, even though there's an animated film in the works.
Whoever acquires these rights will most likely be at odds with Warner Bros. because The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have been involved in extensive lawsuits over the years. Warner Bros. and The Saul Zaentz Company are at odds with one another even now.
It'll be interesting to see what happens with the rights in the future and who acquires them. It seems like many companies will probably shy away given the complex legal issues facing the properties.