Netflix to Stream All Three ‘Lord of the Rings’ Films for First Time; Will Prime Video Make a Play for Trilogy?
The one trilogy to rule them all has a new streaming home that will feel very familiar. Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” films are headed back to Netflix for the first time in nearly three years on Wednesday, Feb. 1. Even more exciting for fans, all three movies will stream there at the same time, instead of coming and going individually or in pairs as they’ve done in the past.
According to TechRadar, the last time that Netflix had some of the movies was early 2020, when “The Two Towers” and “Return of the King” were on the platform, but not “Fellowship of the Ring,” which hasn’t been on the service since 2019. The last two movies left Netflix when HBO Max launched in May of 2020, making the Warner Bros. Discovery streamer their permanent home.
The rights to “The Lord of the Rings” franchise are in a bit of a chaotic state right now. Swedish video game developer Embracer purchased the rights to Middle-earth Enterprises in August 2022, which means that it can now develop future movies, video games, board games, merchandise, and even theme parks based on “Lord of the Rings.” The deal did not cover rights to create TV series, which currently reside with Amazon. Prime Video released its first season of “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” in September, with the second season expected to premiere in 2024.
Embracer’s purchase of Middle-earth Enterprises also did not cover the existing “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” trilogies from Jackson, the distribution rights to which still reside with WBD. Netflix likely licensed the films for a specific period of time, and they will remain available on HBO Max in both theatrical and extended editions despite also heading to the world’s largest streamer for another stint.
But the question is, why is Netflix making the move to bring them back now? It could be an attempt to soften the ground for upcoming anti-password sharing measures at the company. Having blockbusters like the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy could certainly help the service retain users who might otherwise churn away when asked to pay for their own accounts. Alternatively, the move could simply be a way to help Netflix double down on an impressive fourth quarter. The public is also not privy to any contractual stipulations that allowed the films to return after they departed in 2019 and 2020.
It was surprising to see a relatively small company like Embracer win the rights to develop new “Lord of the Rings” movies when a company with as much purchasing power as Amazon was lurking in the wings. The e-commerce giant plans to make at least five seasons of “Rings of Power,” and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the company make a big swing at purchasing the rights to the Jackson trilogy before the next season debuts in order to have all of the Middle-earth content in one place.
Prime Video already licensed the trilogy from WBD once, about a month before the first “Rings of Power” season debuted. Also, Amazon and WBD expanded their business relationship at the end of 2022, as HBO Max returned to Prime Video Channels in December after an absence of over a year. Currently, Prime Video Channels is the only third-party platform that offers the entire HBO Max library. And given that WBD is currently looking to secure as much additional revenue as possible, it does seem like CEO David Zaslav might be willing to listen to offers for even some of the company’s biggest intellectual properties.
The rights situation for “Lord of the Rings” may be messier than a Hobbit hole, but one thing is clear, Peter Jackson’s beloved trilogy will be available to stream both on Netflix and HBO Max starting on Wednesday, Feb. 1.
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