The first season of Amazon‘s Lord of the Rings series will cost the streamer nearly $500 million before New Zealand’s tax credit is taken into consideration.
“Amazon is going to spend about NZ$650 million in Season 1 alone,” Stuart Nash, the country’s Minister for Economic Development and Tourism, told Morning Report. “This is fantastic, it really is … this will be the largest television series ever made.”
The equivalent of $650 million in New Zealand would be roughly $465 million U.S. dollars, and that’s just for production alone. Amazon already spent $250 million just to acquire the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien‘s beloved book series, which spawned the Oscar-winning blockbuster trilogy from director Peter Jackson.
We already knew that Amazon planned to spend $500 million on the LOTR series, but that initial figure was believed to have covered multiple seasons of the show. When New Zealand’s tax credit is factored in, Season 1 is likely to cost around $350 million, which would still make Lord of the Rings the most expensive series in TV history by a significant amount.
Though HBO‘s Game of Thrones became more expensive in later seasons, the average cost of each season was just $100 million — a far cry from Amazon‘s mega-budget for LOTR, which could very well cost less as the show goes on, since expensive sets, costumes and props will likely be re-used in later seasons. But world-building can be pricey early on when it comes to a sweeping fantasy series of epic size and scope.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the Lord of the Rings figures were first released as part of the New Zealand government’s Official Information Act and initially reported by the local outlet Stuff. The documents also confirmed that Amazon is planning to shoot five seasons of the show in New Zealand, as well as a possible spinoff series that has yet to be announced.
The Treasury has labeled the show a “significant fiscal risk” seeing as how the New Zealand government could be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies, but it is a risk that is expected to be rewarded given the amount of money Amazon will be spending in the country, not to mention the jobs the series provides and the tourism it could generate.
The Lord of the Rings TV series is currently in production, and J.A. Bayona is directing the first two episodes. Set thousands of years before the events of Tolkien‘s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the show follows the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, will confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth and carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.
The cast includes Robert Aramayo (Game of Thrones), Owain Arthur (Kingdom), Nazanin Boniadi (Counterpart), Ismael Cruz Cordova (Ray Donovan), Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones), Morfydd Clark (Saint Maud), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Power), Benjamin Walker (Heart of the Sea), Peter Mullan (Westworld), Maxim Baldry (Years and Years), Ian Blackburn (Unbreakable Beau), Kip Chapman (Top of the Lake), Anthony Crum (The Wilds), Maxine Cunliffe (Power Rangers Megaforce), Trystan Gravelle (The Terror), Sir Lenny Henry (Broadchurch), Thusitha Jayasundera (Donmar), Fabian McCallum (You, Me & The Apocalypse), Simon Merrells (Knightfall), Geoff Morrell (Grassroots), Lloyd Owen (Apollo 18), Augustus Prew (Into the Dark), Peter Tait (The Return of the King), Alex Tarrant (Filthy Rich), Leon Wadham (Go Girls) and Sara Zwangobani (Doctor Doctor).
J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay serve as showrunners on the LOTR series, which has already been renewed for Season 2.