Amazon Studios has already made it clear that they’re betting big on their original Lord of the Rings series, giving it a second season renewal before even completing the first one. It looks as if they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is, too, as reports indicate they’re planning to send roughly $465 million on just Season 1 alone.
The figures were initially made public as part of the New Zealand government’s Official Information Act. The series is currently filming in the country, and officials revealed Amazon is anticipating spending NZ$650 million (which converts to $465 million US) on the first season. When local publication Stuff reported on that estimated cost, they also revealed that Amazon plans to film five seasons in New Zealand and then shoot a spin-off series over the next decade.
“What I can tell you is Amazon is going to spend about $650 million in Season 1 alone,” Stuart Nash, the country’s Minister for Economic Development and Tourism, told Morning Report earlier today. “This is fantastic, it really is… This will be the largest television series ever made.”
If $465 million dollars seems like a lot of money, you’re correct. That would shatter records, as the studio’s originally enormous prediction of $500 million to create multiple seasons of the show was already a record-breaking amount. For comparison, HBO spent roughly $100 million to produce each season of Game of Thrones, a similarly fantastical series, and even that seemed stunning at the time.
As Stuff notes, Amazon’s big spending for the series is actually causing controversy in New Zealand. Right now, they’re estimated to get a tax rebate of NZ$160 million ($114 million US dollars) for filming in the country — and the government could potentially be responsible for millions of dollars to help subsidize the series. Even the Treasury has dubbed the show a “significant fiscal risk” because its uncapped budget means there’s no telling how much Amazon, and consequently the government, might spend.
Considering the massive expenditure and risk involved, it’s no surprise Amazon is taking their sweet time working on the show. They struck a deal with J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate for a new adaptation of The Lord of the Rings back in 2017. Since then, Amazon has brought on showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, tapped Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director J.A. Bayona to helm their original series, wrangled together a collection of writers, and finally started shooting — only to pause production due to the pandemic last year.
It looks like we can finally get lost in a new saga relatively soon, though. Set in the Second Age, essentially distancing the series from the beginning of The Lord of the Rings books by about 3,000 years, the show is targeting later this year for an official debut.