While speaking on their quarterly earnings call this week, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav hammered home that the company is focused on making sure that their biggest franchises become what drives their profits moving forward. Zaslav specifically called out their plans for adaptations of DC Comics characters (spotlighting the newly formed DC Studios with James Gunn and Peter Safran) while also teasing that they'd like to get a new Harry Potter movie going by working with author JK Rowling. Another franchise that Zaslav called out however is The Lord of the Rings, back in the public eye in a big way thanks to Amazon Prime Video's new series. According to Zaslav, WBD still has film rights to the Tolkien stories and can exploit it.
"We're going to have a real focus on franchises," the CEO said. "We haven't had a Superman movie in 13 years. We haven't done a Harry Potter movie in 15 years. The DC movies and Harry Potter movie provided a lot of the profits of Warner Brothers Motion Pictures over the last 25 years. So focus on the franchise. One of the big advantages that we have, House of the Dragon is an example of that. Game of Thrones, taking advantage of Sex in the City, Lord of the Rings, we still have the right to do Lord of the Rings movies. What are the movies that have brands that are understood and loved everywhere in the world."
He continued, adding: "We have a lot of (franchises people leave the house for) Batman, Superman, Aquaman. If we can do something with JK on Harry Potter going forward, Lord of the Rings, what are we doing with Game of Thrones? What are we doing with a lot of the big franchises that we have? We're focused on franchises."
Beyond the fact that Zaslav's math about when the last Superman and Harry Potter movies were released being way off, there's a bit of a question as to whether Warner Bros. actually does still have rights to The Lord of the Rings on the big screen.
Earlier this year it was reported that the film and gaming rights to the franchise would be going up for auction, something that Warner Bros. disputed at the time. Months later however it was announced that Embracer Group had acquired the rights to the IPs for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and claim to own worldwide rights to motion pictures. Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema have an animated movie set in Middle-earth that is scheduled for release in 2024, The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim. It's unclear what kind of, if any, legal battle might occur because of this, or how inaccurate the initial reporting was by Embracer about what they own with regard to The Lord of the Rings.