Peter Jackson's original Lord of the Rings trilogy was a smash hit when it premiered back-to-back in 2001, 2002, and 2003. But, while fans loved the original movies so much (they helped kick off the fantasy revolution in entertainment that's still going on today), the J.R.R. Tolkien estate was not nearly as thrilled with the final results. Perhaps that's why the estate is shopping the work for a possible series, and Amazon Studio is considering a Lord Of The Rings reboot.
Christopher Tolkien, the only remaining living child of the original author, was quite blunt when asked, on the eve of The Hobbit, how he felt about Jackson's original series:
They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25. And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film.
It's barely been three years since The Hobbit trilogy limped out of the box office at the end of 2014, with many feeling like Peter Jackson had pulled a George Lucas, giving us prequels that only tarnished the original films. But with no Disney riding to the rescue to reboot the franchise, the Tolkien estate is doing it for themselves.
According to Deadline, the estate is not looking at movies this time, but "shopping a possible series," a la Game of Thrones. There's one difference. Where Game of Thrones was not that expensive to get the rights to, but grew in budget over the course of many years, the Tolkien estate has "a whopping price tag attached" up front of $250 million. That's *just* for the rights to the work, before any other costs even begin.
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... the general package has no talent attached. On top of that, the budget for a fantasy series of that magnitude is likely to be $100-$150 million a season.
And who do we know in the television business with a large budget, a lot of shows just canceled, and a reputation for telling streaming services their job is to find "the next Game of Thrones"? That would be Amazon Studio's Jeff Bezos.
To add fuel to the speculation fire, Bezos reportedly has been very "hands on" with Amazon Studios ever since the head of the division, Roy Price, resigned from the company over sexual harassment charges in the wake of the Weinstein scandal. According to Variety's report, which first leaked the news, Bezos is in fact "personally involved" in trying to bring this project to Amazon.
It is uncommon for Bezos — known to be a fan of high fantasy and science fiction — to involve himself personally in dealmaking for Amazon Studios. But talks for “The Lord of the Rings” come at an uncommon moment for the e-commerce giant’s video-entertainment division. Last month Amazon Studios flushed its executive ranks, with president Roy Price, head of scripted Joe Lewis, and head of unscripted Conrad Riggs all departing.
....pursuit of “The Lord of the Rings” is in line with a new programming mandate dictated this year by Bezos, who, months before Price departed, ordered him to shift Amazon Studios away from niche, naturalistic series such as “Transparent” and “Mozart in the Jungle” and toward large-scale genre programming with potential for broad international appeal.
Still, no deal is in place yet. Deadline says that Amazon, Netflix and HBO were all approached by the Tolkien estate, and that HBO passed immediately. That leaves Netflix and Amazon both still in the running.
While both have enormous budgets for acquisitions and in-house production, only one is actually under orders to find a big budget fantasy series to produce. As Deadline points out, the asking price for the rights is about what Bezos paid to acquire The Washington Post. The budgets certainly don't get much bigger than that.