That proposed new Lord of the Rings TV series could cost a fortune

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Bezos

As we heard over the weekend, Amazon is currently in early talks with Warner Bros Television and the Tolkien estate to develop a brand new TV series adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, which was already adapted into a trilogy of super successful movies in the early 2000s by Peter Jackson. This time around the adaptation is being personally driven by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos who we mentioned just recently became the world’s richest man. Well, that personal achievement might become a very telling point as it would seem that it’s going to take a horde of gold big enough to be guarded by a giant dragon in a mountain to make this show happen.

Deadline followed on from Variety’s initial report of the proposed production, by reporting that initially HBO and Netflix were also interested in the show along with Amazon. While Netflix is technically still in the running, even though Amazon has become the favoured frontrunner, HBO actually dropped out because of the supposed “insane” price tag that comes along with it. HBO is of course the home of Game of Thrones, a fantasy drama with a budget that already puts most movies to shame – it’s reported that the six episodes in its upcoming final season will cost $15 million apiece. So how pricey is Lord of the Rings to make even them baulk at it?

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According to Deadline’s sources, acquiring the project comes with an upfront rights payment in the range of $200-250 million. That’s not to actually make the show. That’s just to be allowed to make the show! And to make that sting even more, the report claims that the quarter of a billion dollars paid upfront doesn’t even guarantee the rights to use all the characters in Tolkien’s works. Then there are the actual production costs which would also be sky-high, with the reported budget hovering somewhere around $100-150 million per season! This means that a potential $400 million could be spent on just the first season alone of a TV series, which is simply ludicrous, even for a property as widely beloved as Lord of the Rings.

However, as Deadline points out, Bezos has already made deals with this kind of bottom line in the past. He bought the Washington Post newspaper for $250 million back in 2013 with his own personal cash. And that was back when he was actually a few billion dollars poorer, so to speak. So as utterly ridiculous as these figures sound, if there’s anybody with pockets deep enough to pull it off, it would be the Amazon CEO who we also know is a self-proclaimed sci-fi and fantasy geek of the highest order.

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At this point, nothing has been made official yet. For all we know, negotiations between the various parties could break down and this show could never get made – something which a contingent of the audience is calling for, as Peter Jackson’s trilogy, including his later, less well-received The Hobbit trilogy, has already mined this lore sufficiently. Or we could just be waking up to the news tomorrow that the world’s richest man has written a check containing more zeroes than should be legally allowed so that he can get people to dress up as elves and dwarves and do battle for him. What a time to be alive!

Last Updated: November 7, 2017

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions – but very little sleep – I’ve been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

  • MonsterCheddar

    No surprise there. If you want to do it properly and not let the films down, you have to fork out the dosh.

  • Johann

    A series done in the same style as Game of Thrones would be great. But they need to do this right, don’t stray from the books and make up your own shit. And Tom Bombadil better be in it!

    • Magoo

      You just want to see naked hobbits!

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    That’s a ludicrous amount of money. Yes it’s got the massive name recognition, which is obviously what he’s banking on, but LOTR really isn’t that good to begin with.

    There’s countless other, better, fantasy series they could do justice to with not even half that money.

    • Original Heretic

      Thank you! I was actually going to say something VERY similar to this.
      I mean, seriously, just off the top of my head, I can think of at least five other amazing fantasy series out there that would WAAAAAAY better than LOTR on the screen.
      Though I disagree that “LOTR really isn’t that good” thing. Trevor’s been smoking his own farts again,

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        Everyone read LOTR as a kid & they’ve got nostalgia goggles on. The world building is very impressive, the story is dull.

        • Original Heretic

          Looking at it with our modern goggles, agreed, it does seem rather contrite and dull in places. And the writing is also very jarring to read.
          But then again, the same argument applies to just about any “classic” novel out there, no matter the genre.
          I remember the absolute slog I had reading through them when I was…a young boy. Didn’t particularly enjoy them. Yet even then I could appreciate the fact that it was the works that inspired an entire genre. It’s BECAUSE of LOTR that we have kickass fantasy today.
          For that alone it deserves all the love it gets.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            I can appreciate it for that, and it certainly propelled fantasy forward as a more adult genre despite being a children’s tale. I just think it’s one of those things people are expected to say they really like, even when they didn’t enjoy it that much. If someone does enjoy it, that’s great. But I reread LOTR more than enough times as a kid because I didn’t have all that much reading material, and I just don’t.

          • Original Heretic

            I’ll be the first to admit, I cannot read it now.
            Having read as much as I have, I find it so archaic.

            I totally agree that there are better book fantasy series out there to make a TV series out of.

    • Skittle

      Bra, meet me in the McDonald’s parking lot after school. We got a score to settle.

    • What did you say?!

    • Weanerdog

      You are dead to me.

      • Weanerdog

        I now feel so bad for this. I have just found out that Trevor can’t in fact read, he just looks at the pictures. He paged through all these books for that one picture of the entrance to Moria. Sorry Trev. :'(

  • Skittle

    I’m sure they can work out a co-funding deal with Smaug

  • that is just stupid money. Westworld didn’t cost that much.

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      Because Westworld isn’t LOTR.

  • Skittle

    They should use that money to make a proper Eragon (Inheritance Cycle) series

    • Original Heretic

      To make a terrible series based on terrible books?

  • Weanerdog

    That is way to much money in my opinion. I think that you would be able to make a better fist of the story with episodes than you could do with a movie trilogy but in my opinion this would be unnecessary.

  • BradeLunner

    Ok, please recommend these “better” fantasy stories? Looking for the gems I’ve missed.

    • To name a few off the top of my head:

      Malazan Book of the Fallen – Steven Erikson
      The Black Company – Glenn Cook
      The Dresden Files – Jim Butcher
      The First Law Trilogy – Joe Abercrombie

      • Dresden

        I can vouch for Dresen Files 😀
        I really think it has the potential of becoming something amazing with a high’ish budget production.

        Also, we don’t speak of that so called “series” they brought out a few years ago. Still haven’t watched it, I refuse to tarnish my memories of Harry Dresden with that garbage.

        • I didn’t even know there was a series before. I only got into Dresden Files recently.

          • Dresden

            Don’t bother watching. It’s a spin-off (not following the books) and they absolutely butchered the characters from what I read on reviews.

            Anyway, hope you follow through with it. The story really only starts fleshing itself out later in the series.

        • Original Heretic

          If you enjoyed the Dresden Files, look out for the Felix Castor novels by Mike Carey.

          • Dresden

            Will have a look, thanks.

          • Original Heretic

            Five books in the series, but be warned, book 3 is lackluster when compared to the rest.

          • Ooh, I’ve been a huge fan of Carey for years because of his comic book work, with Lucifer being my favourite comic book story of all time

            Plus, I’ve met him and had got to sit and chat with him for about 15 mins about Lucifer and specifically about it being adapted for TV. This last sentence has nothing to do with the former, but when you’ve have a lovely face-to-face chat with Mike Carey you try to drop it into every conversation you can.

          • Original Heretic

            Ah wow, that must have been great!
            I’ve read interviews with him, he always comes across like a great guy.
            And hell yeah, I love his work. Lucifer was an amazing comic series, so when I saw he’s written novels, I jumped to read them.
            Though out of the five Felix Castor novels, the third one is a tad weak in comparison to the rest,

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        Check out Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu. Read that recently and it’s probably the best thing I’ve read all year. Would also make for a great TV series.

      • BradeLunner

        Thanks man. Only read the first Jim butcher book and likes the premise but found the writing to be a bit average. Magic noir.

    • Original Heretic

      Also look out for Brent Weeks.
      Two series by him are very worthwhile.
      Night Angel Trilogy
      Lightbringer Series.

      Damn fine reads.

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