Amazon’s Lord of The Rings series will cost $465 million for just one season

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Back in 2017, we’d heard that Amazon had acquired the rights to put together a Lord of the Rings prequel. The release was confusing because 1) it wasn’t the existing “prequel” known as The Hobbit. 2) They were not given the rights to The Lord of the Rings but rather the right to use some of the Middle-earth mythology. And 3) no cast or story had even been hinted at the time of the deal. What was known was the $250M price tag Amazon paid to get this ambiguous use of parts of the lore and that they were supposedly gunning for Game of Thrones’ crown. Four years later and we have a story, cast and an absolutely astounding amount of money being thrown around. The final price tag for this series could be $1B. Currently, Amazon has committed to $465M for just the first season alone.

Amazon Studios’ The Lord of the Rings television show is going to cost all the gold in the Lonely Mountain.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Amazon will spend roughly NZ$650 million — $465 million in U.S. dollars — for just the first season of the show.

That’s far above previous reported estimates that pegged the fantasy drama as costing an already record-breaking $500 million for multiple seasons of the show.

By comparison, HBO’s Game of Thrones cost roughly $100 million to produce per season, with its per-episode cost starting at around $6 million for season one and eventually rising to around $15 million per episode in season eight.

The eye-popping Lord of the Rings price tag almost certainly doesn’t reflect season one’s production cost alone. The rights to the Tolkien property cost an estimated $250 million. Plus there are considerable startup costs when bringing Middle-earth to life — such as sets, costumes and props — that will be used throughout the series.

Amazon picked up the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved Middle-earth franchise in 2017, and early on it was estimated the show could end up eventually becoming the world’s first TV show to cost $1 billion after factoring in the rights deal, production and marketing for multiple seasons.

The official description: The Lord of the Rings “brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.”

[The Hollywood Reporter via DListed]

So the series takes place before The Hobbit. I guess it was just sexier to sell it as a prequel to Lord of the Rings? The story does sound epic and it’s probably some fantasy writer’s dream to tie all the legends in with new content and link it to the existing character arcs. Christ it sounds dark, though. I know that’s the point, that’s where all this was forged and such, but man, a whole new series of evil and peril. I’m not ready.

The money they’re discussing is staggering. I assume the considerable cast they are amassing for this project is bumping that budget up . Of course the graphics budget will be off the charts, Middle Earth and it’s inhabitants aren’t built cheaply. And I’m happy this will help New Zealand’s tourism and economy (fingers crossed – hopefully that tax rebate won’t end up being the financial nightmare they’re afraid of). I get this series isn’t for me. I have no interest in the glut of remakes, reboots, redux, prequels, sequels, spin-offs and every other tired idea being dragged out of the Completed File and dusted off in Hollywood. But I’m sorry, this feels like a d*** measuring contest.

Regardless of the population’s pulse on it now, LoTR was hugely popular and is regarded as film legend. Merely purchasing the rights to the mythology was a coup for Bezos and Co. They’ve held Game of Thrones up as their benchmark, now Amazon is simply bragging that they are doing it bigger, with more people and will spare no cost. It’s not about the art or story telling anymore and that’s sad. They haven’t even shot a frame yet and the entire series already feels overwrought.

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36 Responses to “Amazon’s Lord of The Rings series will cost $465 million for just one season”

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  1. Lily P says:

    I wish there was more distribution of wages in the film industry, the fact that there is such a huge budget yet unpaid internships and set-runners on less than minimum wage still exist really irks me.

  2. Digital Unicorn says:

    Am loving this cast and I did NOT know Sir Lenny Henry was in it – he’s a lovely man and a very talented man.

  3. Millennial says:

    Until they make the LOTR movies less of a sausage fest, I’m not watching. But that was an issue with the original trilogy and the Hobbit. I don’t think either passed the Bechdel test despite each trilogy clocking in at 9 hours.

    • Nanny to the Rescue says:

      That one had an excuse – it (kinda) followed the books. This one is basicly a very expensive fan fiction (they bought the framework of Middle-earth, there are no filmable stories there, just the timeline of events).

      (Apparently they don’t have the rights to ANYTHING in the Silmarillion – they can mention those events, but cannot depict them. This is strictly the timeline between those events and The Hobbit.)

      So this is a lot of money for a project that lies solely on the shoulders of some unknown writers, who will be damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

      • Digital Unicorn says:

        Didn’t Tolkiens family hate the all the movies? I think I recall reading his son did and then there was a big court case with the family/estate and Peter Jackson.

      • Nanny to the Rescue says:

        Yeah, Christopher Tolkien allegedly hated LOTR and didn’t even see The Hobbit.
        Apparently he even had a huge strife with his son because that one was less of a hater.

        The lawsuits were about the studio not paying them all the money and about rights to some by-products. And possibly something else too.

      • Lily Evans says:

        Wait, what? No rights to ANYTHING in the Silmarillion? But it ends (at least my edition does) with the story of Numenor, no? The only thing between this and the LoTR/Hobbit storyline is the story of Aragorn and Arwen, and that was in my edition of LoTR, so surely they cannot use that. What is it even going to be about, then? The daily life of an elf during the fall of Gondolin?

      • Nanny to the Rescue says:

        They have rights to the 2nd age (at least that was hinted). So they don’t have the rights to the story of The Silmarillion. The story of Númenor is just published in the same book, not literally part of the story of the Silmarils, which they cannot use.

        When people speak of the Silmarillion, they often mean Beren and Luthien and all that – well, that’s off the table.

        AFAIK, they can use some things from Unfinished Tales, the appendices of LOTR, and yeah, the Númenor and ring-making chapters at the end of Silmarillion. 2nd age.

      • Digital Unicorn says:

        What was Christopher Tolkien’s issue with the movies – was it because they changed the plot to make Arwyn a bigger character or what? I thought they were very faithful to the books all things considered.

      • Nanny to the Rescue says:

        I’m not sure it was ever explained in details, but from the way it was worded I presumed his problem was that they made it such a spectacle, unlike the book which is more walking and talking and less epic battles. And they cut a lot out (like Bombadil) to make more time for the violent yet epic parts.

        To me that was the right decision (you cannot just take a book to film word by word), but I can see how C. Tolkien would be bothered by it, since he seemed to adore every paragraph in the book.

        So good for him that he didn’t see The Hobbit, that one was hardly anything like the book at all.

      • Digital Unicorn says:

        @Nanny – Ah, but the original book could never have been made into a movie, esp when there was pages and pages describing a forrest. I always got the impression that he was p!ssed because they did stick to the books word for word – they did a good job.

    • Lauren says:

      The thing is that female figures aren’t explored in any of the Tolkien books. They are painted as beautiful, ethereal figure that represent all that is good and pure in the world. Very rarely they get any dialogue, let alone character development. The only ones to get a slight bit of both are Luthien in the Silmarillion and Eowin in the LOR. Since they can’t really can’t use word for word the facts from the Silmarillion, I’m hoping that they do introduce more female characters and diversity specially. Because the Hobbit and LOR trilogies were white AF.

      • Nanny to the Rescue says:

        The known cast is actually quite diverse (more than you’d expect from actual Tolkien), so they’re trying to go there. Which might anger Tolkien purists (and Tolkien fans can be rabid). Tolkien purists being angry isn’t necessary a bad thing, but with this much money involved, I’d say the studio is gambling big time.

  4. Lily Evans says:

    That doesn’t sound like Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit at all, but rather like the Silmarillion, the (unfinished) epos that sets up the entire Middle Earth universe. None of the characters from LoTR or the Hobbit appear in it, besides Galadriel and at the end, Elrond, with a side story explaining the presence of Gandalf and the rest on Middle Earth, so not sure why it’s even called a LoTR series? There aren’t even any rings in it. I suppose it’s to attract the people who only watched the movies but never read the books. I had forgotten all about Amazon making this, but now I’m kind of excited! I liked the Silmarillion, though it is very, very sad and also very character-dense, waaaay more that LoTR, and the characters are almost all elves.

    The budget is staggering, though. I hope it means better effects than in the Hobbit, that one looked pretty horrible.

    • Kiera says:

      I bet they’re going to weave in more of the eleven characters we know to draw in people/ground it for people who haven’t read The Silmarillion. Ten bucks say it opens with a Cate Blanchett voice over describing how the Ainur created the music that made Middle earth and the discordant harmony stuff.

    • LadyMTL says:

      Yeah, it sounds like they’re going to be cribbing together bits and pieces from various other books, though as others have mentioned if Amazon doesn’t actually have the rights to use anything from the Silmarillion I wonder how it’s going to work.
      There are aspects of the other books that I love but I am very puzzled about this whole thing. I’ll reserve judgement until they at least put out a trailer, I guess. I’m a huge LOTR nerd and the Hobbit movies were so disappointing, I don’t want to get excited for nothing.

  5. Kiera says:

    It’s the Silmarillion basically. From what I can tell they are going to pick up after the creation of Middle Earth possibly, but after the elves have left the Undying Lands. It’s really amazing and character wise vaguely connects. Sauron, Gandalf, Galadriel, and some of the older elves will likely be there.

  6. Lauren says:

    I had understood that it was supposed to be about the Sirmarillion which is the Silmarillion which is like the origin story of the elves, men and middle earth. I do hope that whatever it is, it is awesome and they do justice to the stories, $1 B is a drop in the bucket for amazon. I grew up reading Tolkien and I have many fond memories of the books.

  7. Nanny to the Rescue says:

    To everyone above mentioning Silmarillion (so I don’t answer to everyone individually): It was made clear when they bought the rights, that they don’t have the rights to Silmarillion.
    They can mention events that happened there, but cannot show them.

    Although I wish that was it, not something they will come up with themselves.

    • Nanny to the Rescue says:

      Adding to avoid confusion (thanks Lily Evans above): With Silmarillion, I mean the story of the Silmarils. They don’t have the rights to that.

      The last two chapters that just happen to be in the same book and just describe quickly several thousands of years of events (of the Island of Númenor and of the ring-making) between Silmarillion and Hobbit, those they can use.

      But not Beren, Luthien, Turin, Morgoth, etc.

  8. Becks1 says:

    I haven’t read Silmarillion, so don’t know what happened there lol. But both the LOTR trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy open with a lot of background, so they could use that as a jumping off point (unless that’s the Silmarillion.)

    I hope this just isn’t about doing the biggest battle scenes possible, what made GOT so good was that the big battle scenes had a lot of meaning, it wasn’t just “oh we have all these enemies.”

    Anyway with that kind of budget the special effects and costumes and such should be good, so I’ll watch.

    I love the LOTR movies, I’m more meh on the Hobbit movies (they’re good but I don’t think a trilogy for them was necessary), and we’re starting to read The Hobbit with the kiddos this week, so its safe to say we’ll watch this.

  9. cassandra says:

    Uh I’m a huge LOTR fan-like I can probably put together a few elvish phrases off the top of my head kind of fan-and I’m pretty leery of this series.

  10. Hungry says:

    Loved, loved, loved, and still love the original trilogy. Had the extended DVDs and watched all the behind the scenes videos and everything. Have only seen bits of the Hobbit movies and won’t watch them as I don’t want to ruin the original trilogy. The book (lotr) is very badly written and only good for the story, characters, universe-building, and some of the language. On the male-fest thing, It’s widely recognised by critics that shelob, the spider, was misogynistically written in the book. Arwen had no rescue-frodo action moment in the book. Amazon’s budget is insane; do they have merchandising rights or something? What could possibly justify this? Is just the streaming going to help it break even?

  11. Granger says:

    The cast looks pretty diverse, although there are still significantly more men on the list than women, but I guess that’s par for the course for a LOTR story. I’m just hoping — with all the talk about this being Amazon’s GoT moment — that we don’t get a show full of rape scenes and ridiculous amounts of gratuitous nudity.

  12. OriginalLala says:

    I’m curious, but not hopeful about this – what I really want to know is when the Wheel Of Time TV series will happen??????

  13. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I. Can’t. Wait. Having grown up reading the books, LOTR was fantasy precedent setting. Hobbit was okay, but the tone matched the books, so I understand the filming choices. With this much money involved, they have every opportunity to build an incredible world, characters with depth and considerable existences, and well defined story arcs which are buildable and rewarding.

    • Becks1 says:

      This has been what’s funny about watching the movies with our kids – they’re like “oh he looks like Dumbledore! They’re copying Harry Potter!” Er, no, this was first. This is the precedent.

  14. Keroppi says:

    I love Lord of the Rings, but I’m really starting to question whose stories are not being told. Between all the remakes and reboots, I would love to see something new and diverse. Something that we haven’t seen before and from a storyteller from who we haven’t typically heard. This isn’t about Tolkein, more about the entertainment industry and what they choose to fund and promote.

  15. Grant says:

    I don’t think the LOTR movies have aged particularly well. Too much reliance on dated CGI that looks awful by today’s standards, total sausage-fest, too many close-up shots of Elijah Wood’s dirty, chewed up fingernails… I don’t know how I feel about this one. I can’t imagine that a series made now would basically ignore the (scant few) female characters the way LOTR did. If that’s the case, I definitely won’t be watching.

    • Hungry says:

      Randomly, I remember Ian McKellen talking about how he’d asked Wood, “Don’t you mind people now can see your badly bitten nails (with the ring close-ups)?” And he said Elijah didn’t care.

  16. Franny says:

    Can’t they throw $100 million of that to do a third season of The Patriot?

  17. JanetDR says:

    I heartily enjoyed the LOTR movies and waited to buy DVDs with all of the extras! Those DVDs have gotten me through some rough times. I’d be happy to watch something based on Tolkein’s writing but assume they are going to be padding a lot. I’m hoping that it will be on Prime.

  18. Clementine’s Mom says:

    There is a wealth of writing outside of The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion. Christopher Tolkien has been releasing it for years. (It all takes place in the same world.)

  19. Holland S says:

    Is there another fantasy world they could explore? I’m so bored of retreading old stuff.

  20. Juxtapoze says:

    I really enjoyed LOR but the Hobbit was a bloated, drawn out snooze-fest. I literally fell asleep in the theater watching each film. Should have been one movie. I don’t trust Peter Jackson not to suck up my precious time with another bloated vanity project. This prequel will need to have fantastic writing & laser-focused editing to reel me back in as a viewer.

    • Hungry says:

      Think Peter Jackson got really, really lucky with a great team and editor (and music and screenwriter) in the first trilogy. Not a fan of his other films.