World building doesn’t come cheap.
Amazon battled Netflix for the rights last in 2017 and snagged a $250 million rights deal with the Tolkien estate, New Line, and publisher Harper Collins. Amazon won and has shelled out a lot of money on top of that to produce the first season – $465 million or about 162,750,000 potatoes. And they’re going to do five of them.
Jennifer Salke is the head of Amazon Studios – programming choices and where the money goes is ultimately up to her. In a recent panel, moderated by the Hollywood Reporter, she was asked about the hefty price tag of the upcoming Lord of the Rings series. This was her response:
The market is crazy, as you saw with the Knives Out deal. [Netflix paid $469 million for two sequels.] This is a full season of a huge world-building show. The number is a sexy headline or a crazy headline that’s fun to click on, but that is really building the infrastructure of what will sustain the whole series. But it is a crazy world and various people… have been in bidding situations where it starts to go incredibly high.
There’s a lot of wooing and we have to make decisions on where we want to stretch and where we want to draw the line. As for how many people need to watch Lord of the Rings? A lot. (Laughs.) A giant, global audience needs to show up to it as appointment television, and we are pretty confident that that will happen.
I agree with her. I think having the name and the rights is enough to get fans to tune in to at least a couple of episodes. If you need more, the official synopsis…
“Amazon Studios’ forthcoming series 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. It 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 Second Age is a time filled with bloodshed that starts with the founding of Númenor and ends with The War of the Last Alliance. The entire period is plagued by Sauron being Sauron. He created the Rings of Power, built Barad-dûr, and lost a significant finger during the Second Age. Expect multiple episodes centered around epic battles and characters mentioned briefly in the main trilogy.
No title yet, so I guess we’ll go on calling it Amazon’s Lord of the Rings TV Show. The first season of is slated to debut on Amazon Prime later this year, and will be followed by four more.