When someone writes a book about the years 2010-2019, they'll entitle it The Fantasy Decade. Starting with the final two movies of Harry Potter, this decade has seen the rise of Game of Thrones on TV and all the series the success of it spawned. Marvel's The Avengers and all their accompanying films, now rounding to their 20th, has dominated the box office. But the climax seems to be the upcoming Lord of the Rings reboot. Details about the Lord Of The Rings Amazon series arrived this week via a deep dive by The Hollywood Reporter which runs down the particulars of the deal.
In mid-2017, then CEO of Amazon Studios Roy Price told Variety that Jeff Bezos was unhappy with how their series were performing. The streaming service, which had been considered Netflix main competitor, had just seen their spot usurped by Hulu and The Handmaid's Tale, which swept the Emmys, including becoming the first streaming service to win Best Drama. Amazon, meanwhile, was still struggling to produce anything worthy of the Awards circuit. The mandate: "Bring Me Game of Thrones."
By November, Amazon had gone on to beat Netflix for the rights to Lord of the Rings in an unprecedented deal where they paid $250 million for the rights to make a TV show. That's a quarter of a billion dollars just for the right to make the show. No actors, no directors, no producers, no script, no set, nothing attached. Each of those will have to be paid for separately. And yet, with Bezos at the helm (he was rumored to have closed the deal personally) Amazon seems confident they've landed what will be the most successful show they've ever produced.
1. The Price Tag Could Exceed $1 Billion Dollars
The Hollywood Reporter quotes the Tolkien Estate's attorney Matt Galsor who was the "chief architect" in negotiations as saying "This is the most complicated deal I've ever seen." Still, the relative speed in which it got done (Price was quoted with the new directive on Sept. 8, the deal closed Nov. 13) means that Amazon will be spending a lot of money in order to uphold their end of it.
Having already spent $250 million, The Hollywood Reporter sees an easy path to Bezos pouring money into the production, big-name casts, and those all-important visual effects. By the time all is said and done the price tag could reach $1 billion. This is the kind of money Game of Thrones only dreams of. Fans could have had dragons *and* dire wolves.
2. Amazon Has Greenlit 5 Seasons Sight-Unseen
The reason the price tag is so high is that the deal required Amazon to guarantee, even before anything was signed, that they would agree to produce five seasons of the show at a minimum. That means that even if Season 1 is a complete disaster, the show won't be canceled.
This is not completely unheard of. Netflix did something similar with their deal for The Crown. They actually greenlit six seasons and agreed to a complete cast overhaul every two. But since then, Netflix has calmed down considerably. More notably, they have not made any deals of that nature again.
The risk paid off for Netflix the one time they did it. Will it do the same for Amazon? It's a risky bet, but if they can get a good show going, this is insurance it won't get canceled on the fans.
3. The Show Must Be In Production By 2020
This is the other reason The Hollywood Reporter believes the price tag will shoot the moon. Most production companies, especially if they'd just made a deal that included only the rights, and had to start their hiring from scratch, would take their sweet time finding the right producers, the right writers, and the right cast.
Amazon doesn't have that kind of time. They have to have the show in production within two years of the deal. If they don't, the Tolkien Estate gets their $250 million back and walks away. So for those who are worried this is a series that will never actually come to fruition, worry not. This series is definitely happening.
4. Peter Jackson Is Trying To Get Involved As A Producer
This might not make fans that excited especially if they are the kind that hated The Hobbit films, but word is that Peter Jackson's attorney Peter Nelson has recently "opened a dialogue" between the former director of the original six films and Amazon. For the record, when talking about "people who hated The Hobbit films, that includes the Tolkien Estate, who hated all six of Jackson's films. So chances of him getting directly involved are very low.
But Amazon is in a hurry to get this show on the road. Even if there are no plans to get Peter Jackson directly involved in production he has something Amazon needs: The machinery and the visual effects artists at WETA in New Zealand who would make Amazon's path to getting the series off the ground so much easier. WETA is deeply experienced in motion capture technology and in the creation of the look of Middle Earth that fans have grown accustomed to. Bringing them on board would be a coup for Amazon, and go a long way towards making a show fans can get excited about.