In its quest to launch a hit fantasy series of the Game of Thrones calibre, Amazon has closed a massive deal — said to be close to $250 million — to acquire global TV rights to The Lord of the Rings, based on the fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien. The streaming service has given a multi-season commitment to a LOTR series in the pact, which also includes a potential spinoff series.
The LOTR original series, a prequel to Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, will be produced by Amazon Studios in cooperation with the Tolkien Estate and Trust; HarperCollins; and New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Bros. Entertainment, which produced the hugely successful LOTR movie franchise.
No details about the deal were disclosed, but it is believed to be dwarfing any TV series pact to date with a whopping price tag attached.
Amazon, Netflix and HBO had been approached by the Tolkien estate, who had been shopping the project. It came with an upfront rights payment said to be in the $200 million-$250 million range, and Amazon landed the rights by paying close to $250 million. That is just for the rights, before any costs for development, talent and production, in proposition whose finances industry observers called “insane.” It is a payment that is made sight unseen as there is no concept, and there are no creative auspices attached to the possible series. On top of that, the budget for a fantasy series of that magnitude is likely to be $100 million-$150 million a season.
“The Lord of the Rings is a cultural phenomenon that has captured the imagination of generations of fans through literature and the big screen,” said Sharon Tal Yguado, Head of Scripted Series at Amazon Studios. “We are honoured to be working with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line on this exciting collaboration for television and are thrilled to be taking The Lord of the Rings fans on a new epic journey in Middle Earth.”
Set in Middle Earth, the television adaptation will explore new storylines preceding Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. I hear that there are some creative restrictions imposed by the rights holders on what can be done and what can’t be done in a LOTRTV series.
Given Amazon’s mandate to launch a big fantasy series of the scope of Game of Thrones, which comes directly from honcho Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s deep coffers, the company was considered the leading contender for a Lord of the Rings series. Bezos has been hands-on involved in the matters of entertainment division Amazon Studios following the purge of its top executives, led by Roy Price, and has been taking meetings and making calls to agents.