Amazon to produce ‘Lord of the Rings’ television series

The Amazon TV button on a remote control is shown in this photo illustration
The Amazon TV button on a remote control is shown in this photo illustration. Picture taken November 10, 2017 REUTERS/Mike Blake

November 14, 2017

By Jeffrey Dastin

(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc has bought the global television rights to “The Lord of the Rings,” the company said on Monday, in what may be its biggest and most expensive move yet to draw viewers to its streaming and shopping club Prime.

Amazon said it will produce a multi-season series that explores new storylines preceding author J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring,” the first installment in the famed fantasy trilogy.

Three movies made of the trilogy in the early 2000s, filmed in New Zealand by director Peter Jackson, garnered nearly $3 billion at the box office and 17 Academy Awards.

Amazon acquired the rights from the Tolkien Estate and Trust but did not say how much it paid for them. The estate, HarperCollins and the films’ distributor New Line Cinema will help Amazon produce the television series.

The project underscores a shift in Amazon’s video programming. Its studio started in 2010 with a focus on unique shows beloved by critics, such as “Transparent,” about a father coming out as transgender to his family.

That was a winning formula for attracting Hollywood talent, awards and buzz, though not Prime subscribers around the world.

Now, Amazon is looking for a dramatic show that could be a hit globally, much like HBO’s popular fantasy series “Game of Thrones.” It is going head to head with Netflix Inc, Hulu and others to bid for top content.

This puts Amazon in uncharted territory, with higher production costs expected.

Amazon justifies its spending on programming as a way to draw new sign-ups to Prime, whose members buy more goods more often from the world’s largest online retailer.

“Amazon Prime heads to Middle Earth,” Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said in a Twitter post.

Although “The Lord of the Rings” is the most famous work to emerge from Tolkien’s pen, he wrote much else, including prequel “The Hobbit” – also made into a movie trilogy by Jackson – and the denser “The Silmarillion”. The Amazon series will delve into some of Tolkien’s work that the movies did not explore.

“Amazon is committed to producing super high quality, recognized, branded entertainment,” said Wedbush Securities industry analyst Michael Pachter. “That’s a departure from shows like “Transparent” and “Catastrophe.””

“By definition this will be expensive,” he added.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

  • A handful of Netflix produced shows are decent. But all of Netflix’s SciFi or Fantasy programming is awful! Really, really Awful; the granddaughter of Wyatt Earp and his ‘Magic Gun’?

  • eladtoor

    It’s not difficult to guess that Jeff will play ‘The Lord’.

  • Kathleen Burns Griggs

    While everyone is automatically slamming their knees into their noses with “doom and gloom” predictions about how awful a limited run series based upon J.R.R. Tolkien’s magnificent books is “definitely” going to be, do keep in mind that Christopher Tolkien, and the family, are extremely protective of his father’s works. One millimeter out of step with his father’s vision and he’ll devastate their production very publicly. Try, just for something new and different, try a little positivity and wait until there’s actually something to watch and critique. I know, what a bizarre concept, right?

  • shoebear

    The LOTR, although not explicitly Christian, was based profoundly on Tolkien’s Christian (Roman Catholic) worldview — a key element that makes LOTR transcend mere fantasy fiction. I don’t trust Amazon even to understand this, much less translate this faithfully into a series.

  • Red

    Nooooooooooooooooo, why do this, they will only ruin things …

  • Why do we need a series for one book? We have the movies, imperfect thought hey were, and we have the books. What can they do in a series, without tossing in a lot of extra stuff, that would make it worth our while? Even if they ere 100% true to the books (and w all know that won’t happen), it would be very limited by nature, because the books are finite.

    • intimeforthedime

      They will not be true to the books.
      Amazon will gay it up and throw a lot of CW 3-ways in there.
      What is a CW 3-way? The network CW has tons of shows that always pit the main character with 2 girls or 2 guys that the story eventually evolves around. Constantly putting the 3 in awkward sexual and relationship issues to keep drama center stage.
      Becky loves Tom, then next show Becky loves Bill, then next show Bill beats up Tom because he thought Tom was hurting Becky, next show Becky leaves Bill for Tom, all the while the main subject of the show gets lost and the audience ends up watching 7 seasons of drama with a little actual subject thrown in behind the scenes.
      You can call it a Sci-Fi soap opera.

      • Seems likely!! Some of the producers seem to believe that half the world is homosexual, and shove that nonsense into every program they can. 1-2%, maybe, but we have to see it all the time!

    • Brandon Dockins

      If you read the Silmarillion you will find out there is plenty of material. The Lord of the Rings is a drop in the bucket compared to that book.

      • Oh, I have read it, but it’s still limited, and I shudder to think how badly they’d butcher that book. Peter Jackson was bad enough with The Hobbit, and now Amazon has control? Amazon…..what were thy thinking??? Never should have made such a deal.

  • intimeforthedime

    Thank the world Prime video is FREE with a membership to Amazon Prime because next to NETFLIX, amazon video is junk. I would NEVER pay to have this.
    It has tons of content “IF” you consider Pay Per View to be content.
    ALL of NETFLIX’s content is free to watch as a member. No Pay Per View. And the content is dang GREAT!
    Stranger Things!

    Plus, who wants to watch a show about a dad ruining his family by pulling a Bruce Jenner?

  • 2EdgedSword

    Amazon is corrupt. What it touches becomes taboo.

  • erospawn

    Don’t gay it up..and turn it into a show that pushes a progressive agenda..it’ll be pretty good. Too bad that’s too much to ask. They’ll destroy the magic that is Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.