WB buys “Rings” TV rights

In a major coup, the WB Network has acquired the TV rights to Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and its as-yet-unfinished sequels, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, for at least $75 million.

Variety reports that the transaction could reach $160 million or more depending on the box office performance of the sequels, and the deal gives the WB a 10-year shared license for the trilogy with Turner Broadcasting’s TBS and TNT. The WB, New Line and Turner are all divisions of AOL Time Warner.

Which of the three networks will get first dibs at The Fellowship of the Ring when it becomes available in the fourth quarter of 2004 has yet to be decided. Despite the WB’s deal making, it is Turner Broadcasting that controls the network window, and Turner will ultimately decide how TBS, TNT and the WB will schedule the films.

Starting in December 2002, however, Fellowship will play exclusively on the pay TV network Starz for 18 months, before it airs elsewhere.

Since its release on December 19, 2001, The Fellowship of the Ring has gone on to gross more than $260 million in North America alone, with a total box office haul of more than $300 million a real possibility.

Elijah Wood stars in the Rings trilogy as Frodo Baggins, and heads an all-star cast that includes Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Astin and Cate Blanchett.

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