Amazon Scores Middle Earth, Hobbits Probably All Awarded Free Prime Membership for a Year
War! Of! The Rings! What is it good for? Hopefully some Emmys. (Say it again!)
After the reports of Jeff Bezos ordering the Amazon streaming department to “find the next Game of Thrones” when Hulu scored Emmy nominations glore on The Handmaid’s Tale, today’s announcement of their acquisition of the rights to a Lord Of The Rings television series shouldn’t really surprise anyone. The irony is probably lost on most that back in the mid-aughts, TV executives were wondering if they could find a Lord Of The Rings/Harry Potter type series when HBO decided to run with Game of Thrones as “the closest thing.” Shall we sing a song about things coming full circle?
From the press release:
Amazon today announced it has acquired the global television rights to The Lord of the Rings, based on the celebrated fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien, with a multi-season commitment. The upcoming Amazon Prime Original 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.
This is on top of also having Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens in production for 2019, as Amazon’s answer to STARZ’s American Gods this past spring. Full coverage is important when trying to get out of third place in the streaming wars. According to The Hollywood Reporter:
The news comes four months after Warner Bros. and the Tolkien estate settled an $80 million lawsuit after a five-year battle. That happened after Warners offshoot New Line Cinema and the Tolkien estate waged a courtroom battle over profit participation from the film franchise that consisted of The Fellowship of the Ring(2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003), as well as 2013 prequel The Hobbit. The property is a multibillion-dollar worldwide franchise.
Well placed gossip from Deadline puts this deal in the staggering $200 – $250 million range.
That is just for the rights, before any costs for development, talent and production. It is a payment that has to be 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-$150 million a season.
To put that in real money terms, that’s about the price Jeff Bezos paid for the entire Washington Post when he bought it a few years back, and that’s just for the rights. But at least those rights do see to be extensive. From the press release:
Set in Middle Earth, the television adaptation will explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien’s TheFellowship of the Ring. The deal includes a potential additional spin-off series.
As fans of Lord Of The Rings are aware, the estate, lead by son Christopher Tolkien hated, and we mean *hated* the Jackson movies, both the original trilogy and the Hobbit prequels that followed. (At least he was in step with fans on the latter three.) Tolkien called them “an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25.” Perhaps that suggests that Amazon will lean at least a little bit more into the history and language nerd aspects of the story, and away from the sex and violence that characterizes Game of Thrones?
Feel free to stop laughing any time.
There is no estimate yet as to how long it will take for the series to come to the streaming series in completed form if it does, but we’ll probably guess somewhere around 2020 or so.