Amazon Aims for Its Own ‘Game of Thrones’ With New ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Series
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is looking for one show to rule them all. Amazon Studios is bringing the classic The Lord of the Rings fantasy novel series to the small screen with a streaming series based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien.
The e-commerce giant said on Monday that it has acquired the global television rights to The Lord of the Rings, and its entertainment studio is already committed to produce a “multi-season” TV series based on the books for Amazon Prime subscribers, with the potential for an additional spin-off series. Amazon will produce the new original series in partnership with Tolkien’s estate and HarperCollins, which holds the publishing rights to the books, as well as Warner Bros.’s New Line Cinema, the studio that distributed the three Lord of the Rings movie adaptations that were released between 2001 and 2003.
“The Lord of the Rings is a cultural phenomenon that has captured the imagination of generations of fans through literature and the big screen,” Sharon Tal Yguado, Amazon Studios’ head of scripted series, said in a statement. The company also said the series will be based in Middle Earth (the books’ fictional setting), but it “will explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring,” the first novel from the trilogy of books, first published in 1954.
Amazon has already won Oscars and Emmys for its original movies and TV shows, but the company’s growing streaming film and TV studio has yet to produce a massive drama series that can match the global popularity of a show like HBO’s Game of Thrones or Netflix’s Stranger Things. In September, Variety reported that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had tasked his film and TV studio with finding and developing an original series that could match those rivals in terms of scope and broad appeal after the company scored multiple critically-acclaimed series that had otherwise failed to pull in massive audiences. (Amazon Studios is also looking for some positive news to help move on from a period of tumult that saw studio chief Roy Price forced out amid sexual harassment allegations.)
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A TV series based on The Lord of the Rings would certainly seem to fit the mold of what Bezos is after, which could be why the tech billionaire reportedly got personally involved in negotiations with Warner Bros. and Tolkien’s estate before paying what’s said to be a massive amount (Deadline reported the deal to be worth $250 million) to bring the series to Amazon. The book series has boasted a cult following for decades while the Oscar-winning movie trilogy grossed nearly $3 billion in worldwide movie ticket sales while paving the way for another trilogy of movies based on Tolkien’s earlier work, The Hobbit.
Assuming fans haven’t grown tired of seeing Tolkien’s work adapted after six movies, The Lord of the Rings TV series should benefit from a built-in following that should turn it into one of the most hotly-anticipated shows in development for television. However, with the already massive price tag for the show (the $250 million would only cover the rights, while production costs on a show like Game of Thrones run HBO as much as $15 million per episode) means that Amazon is putting a lot of pressure on the latest adaptation of Tolkien’s books to resonate with fans yet again.