Lord of the Rings TV show

Update: Some new information has come out about how much Amazon paid for the rights to this property, and you can read about that at the bottom of this article. Our original piece follows.

That didn’t take long. It was only a few days ago that we wrote about Amazon being in talks with the estate of author J.R.R. Tolkien to adapt the beloved fantasy novels The Lord of the Rings into a TV series for Prime Video. Now, the company has confirmed that deal is definitely happening. Not only that, the show is getting a multi-season commitment, and we know that it’ll be set before the events depicted in Peter Jackson’s acclaimed movie adaptation. Read on for everything we know about the Lord of the Rings TV show so far.

Here’s a description of the show, straight from the new press release:

Set in Middle Earth, the television adaptation will explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. The deal includes a potential additional spin-off series.

It’s interesting that they’re choosing The Fellowship of the Ring as a marking point. Does that mean the show could be about Bilbo Baggins, the protagonist of The Hobbit? Jackson already directed three Hobbit movies – all of which paled in comparison to his previous LOTR adaptations – so it seems unlikely that someone else would come in and retread that same ground.

So what might this show be about, then? While we still aren’t certain about specific details, there’s plenty to choose from. Tolkien crafted a detailed history of Middle-earth called The Silmarillion, which covered the creation of the world, epic wars, intrigue, the downfall of entire societies, dwarf and elvish history, and much more. But the book is famously dense and difficult to read – only hardcore Tolkien fans make it all the way through – so a direct translation seems out of the question. (The book reads like some of the early chapters of the Bible: this person begat this person, who then begat this person…and so on.)

But now that we know we won’t be seeing the adventures of Aragorn and the Fellowship retold on the small screen (at least, not yet), The Silmarillion has a ton of potential for creative writers to come in and expand Tolkien’s mythos into compelling, watchable TV. After all, George R.R. Martin came along years later and managed to make that historical approach work like gangbusters in Game of Thrones, a show that Amazon is almost certainly looking at as a blueprint for their own potential success here – even down to the idea of possible spin-offs being a part of the deal.

Also worth mentioning: there were plenty of clashes with Tolkien’s estate during the making of Jackson’s movies, and the family never seemed too fond of the director’s interpretation of Tolkien’s work. Their official involvement in this show seems like a big deal, not only because it means the show will have their stamp of approval, but also because it could signal a shift in tone for this adaptation. What exactly that shift means is yet to be seen, but I’m excited to find out.

UpdateDeadline shared this bit of info about the price of doing business with the Tolkien estate:

Amazon, Netflix and HBO had been approached by the Tolkien estate, who had been shopping the project. It came with an upfront rights payment said to be in the $200 – $250 million range, though some sources say the fee could be slightly below $200 million. That is just for the rights, before any costs for development, talent and production, in proposition whose finances industry observers called “insane.” 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. On top of that, the budget for a fantasy series of that magnitude is likely to be $100-$150 million a season.

So while Game of Thrones started relatively small and slowly increased its budget to account for huge battles and CG dragons, it seems as if Amazon is jumping straight into the deep end of the money pool. I understand that audiences are demanding high quality content these days, but this seems to be taking things to a whole new level. Here’s hoping the end result is worth such a ridiculous amount of cash.

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