After paying a hefty rights fee of $200-250M, Amazon has officially made new rights deal with the Tolkien Estate and publisher HarperCollins for a Lord of The Rings prequel TV series. The upfront fee seemingly was a response to Warner Bros/New Line Cinema refusing to pay what was owed to the Estate leading to multiple lawsuits filed by the Tolkien Estate, getting their money ahead of the release was likely to ensure payment was made.
Other prospects included Netflix and HBO.
Set in Middle Earth, the television adaptation will explore new storylines preceding Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.
The deal seemingly excludes access to other Middle-Earth tales explored in the Silmarillion, Children of Hurin, and History of Middle-Earth I-III, specifically geared towards the Rings trilogy. This might allow them to create new characters within Middle-Earth without having to re-tread on the familiar ground covered by the Peter Jackson movies.
Speaking of Jackson, Deadline also mentions that Amazon hasn’t attempted to reach out to Peter and Fran Walsh or even Weta.
A bit odd since they were the gatekeepers on the Middle-Earth trilogies and could be a huge asset to keep fans invested in new stories. You’d also expect them to at least try to shoot in New Zealand, which has become best known as the country that doubled for Middle-Earth. It’s possible Jackson is finally done with the franchise and that the Tolkien Estate’s bad-blood with New Line/WB might be a contributing factor. We’re hoping at the very least that Weta Workshop/Weta Digital returns to the fold and they indeed shoot in New Zealand again.
While the price-tag might seem like a lot (won’t even cover production costs). However, TV shows like the Walking Dead and Game of Thrones have generated billions in revenue for AMC and HBO. If successful it could lead to a bunch of spinoffs and wave of new merch. They’ll likely make their money back after the first season.
It’s unknown who’ll end up writing and showrunning the series, let alone when it’ll start shooting and it’s release date.