Previously just a rumor, it is now official that Amazon is developing an original Lord of the Rings prequel/spin-off series. The complex and expensive deal reportedly costs Amazon close to $250 million for the rights alone, with industry outlets like Deadline anticipating a cost of around $100-150 Million per season to produce the series. No Writer/Showrunner is attached to the project, which is a co-production between Amazon Studios, Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins, New Line Cinema, and Warner Bros TV, but the deal promises multiple seasons, and even a potential spin-off. The deal does not include the rights to The Silmarillion, a massive bible, of sorts, for the world of Middle Earth, which was published from JRR Tolkien’s vast notes, after the Author’s death. The deal was pushed through on Amazon CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos’ mandate that Amazon acquire a Game of Thrones for their streaming service.
Deadline has reported that none of the involved parties have reached out to film trilogy Director Peter Jackson or his writing partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. Jackson stipulated in his contract for the films that he would walk away owning every costume, prop, constructed set, and his famous “bigatures”. Jackson also has a plethora of concept art, and R&D files for the project that maps out nearly the entirety of the fictitious middle earth setting.
The Tolkien estate and HarperCollins have been rumored to be rather bitter towards New Line, and Jackson, as they only made around $3 Million for the trilogy, and missed out on licencing rights for promotional products like toys and clothing. It was reported last week that the Tolkien estate was shopping a potential series around to various channels and streaming services, including HBO, Netflix, and Amazon. Netflix reportedly offered a $100 million bid for the rights that was bested by Amazon.
Internationally, the 3 films in the trilogy grossed around $2.9 billion, while the 3rd film in the series, The Return of the King, scored 11 Oscars in 2004, including the top honor, Best Picture. Amazon is currently one of the largest companies in the world, with its founder Jeff Bezos holding the title of richest man in the world with an estimated wealth of $90 billion. Though these kinds of deals seem absurd to the original television industry, Bezos’ Amazon, and companies like Netflix have money from Silicon Valley, and routinely make multi billion dollar acquisitions. This influx of Silicon Valley money into the television industry is largely responsible for the explosive growth in our current golden age of television.