Well this is just getting insane. Less than one month ago came word that the first seasons of Amazon’s Lord of the Rings would cost more than all three movies in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy. Around $500 million.
But that’s just the beginning of the craziness. Amazon’s adaptation is going to cost hundreds of millions more than Jackson’s trilogy. In fact, it’s expected that once all the costs of producing the show are factored in—including casting, producers, visual effects, and so on—the price tag will be over $1 billion. BILLION. For a television show. It’s going to be the biggest TV series ever produced in terms of price tag.
We all knew this was going to be an expensive project from the start. The price tag to make it happen immediately jumped to $250 million just to acquire the rights, beating out other potential candidates like Netflix.
When we were talking about a $500 million price tag, that was only for the first couple seasons. But it turns out Amazon is committed to five seasons of the series, which of course adds a few Scrooge McDuck coin swimming pools to the total cost. There’s also the potential for a spinoff.
The news comes from The Hollywood Reporter, who shared details on the complex deal that was worked out. Matt Galsor, the attorney who represented the Tolkien estate and was the deal’s architect, had this to say about how it played out:
“This is the most complicated deal I’ve ever seen, but it was handled relatively quickly, in a way that brought the parties together in a close relationship. It was tough, but everybody liked each other and felt like a team more as the deal closed.”
The deal was between Amazon and multiple parties including the Tolkien estate, HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema. The inclusion of New Line Cinemas, the studio behind the films, is interesting. They never actually possessed the TV rights to Lord of the Rings, so they weren’t necessary to the negotiations. However, it seems Amazon might end up using some of the materials created for the films, so they were brought to the table for negotiations.
Speaking of the films, one question has been if Peter Jackson himself might get involved as a producer on the series. Whether he will or not remains to be seen, but his attorney Peter Nelson did get talks going between Jackson and Amazon. Here’s what Nelson had to say about the mega-project:
“It’s very much a creature of the times. We are in an era where streamers are bidding up the price of programming. I think Amazon is taking a page out of the studios’ emphasis on franchises. They also are realizing that with the overproduction of television, you need to get the eyeballs to the screen, and you can do that with franchise titles.”
In the report about the series costing more than Jackson’s film trilogy we touched on the skyrocketing budgets of big TV and film titles, noting the $1 billion price tag of Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War, which hits theaters later this month, and its sequel. Now hearing a TV series could cost $1 billion is pretty unbelievable. If it does end up costing that much, it could cost around the same as Jackson’s Lord of the Rings AND Hobbit trilogies combined. Six blockbuster films.
There’s also a significant stipulation that creates a ticking clock for Amazon. Part of the deal is that the Lord of the Rings series has to be in production within the next two years, so unless things fall apart we’re likely going to be hearing quite a bit about this one soon as creatives are hired and the cast is assembled.
I’m sure one day we’ll find out exactly how much all of this cost to make. But for now, just hearing these numbers is enough to make me very curious to see what they do with it. That, and I’m rather enjoying finding new Gollum reaction shots. Someone should probably make some emojis using all his expressions.
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