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Amazon’s LORD OF THE RINGS Will Be the Most Expensive Show in History

Nearly nine hours in theatrical release and over 12 in extended home releases were apparently not enough to get every last piece of enjoyment from J.R.R. Tolkien‘s immortal book trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. The once-believed unfilmable books were turned into less-than-successful animated films in the ’70s and ’80s but massively successful live-action films in the early 2000s thanks to Peter Jackson. Now, Amazon has picked up the rights to turn it into a streaming series, and, according to a fascinating new piece by The Hollywood Reporter, it’s going to last at least five seasons and cost upwards of $1 billion. Precious indeed.

It was rumored at the time that the Lord of the Rings series would be the most expensive TV show in history, and now it seems to be absolutely the case. THR details the bananas-complex rights situation that landed the project in Jeff Bezos’ shire. Amazon was in a bidding war with Netflix for the rights to the novels, published between 1954 and 1955, and ended up paying a quarter of a billion dollars to the Tolkien estate, publisher HarperCollins and New Line Cinema. The deal, made in 2017, stipulates that production has to start within two years with a five-year commitment, and estimates are saying it’ll cost over a billy.

And as quickly as this deal came together, it’s one of the most complicated in Hollywood history. When Tolkien sold the rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to United Artist in 1969, they subsequently changed hands multiple times, going through many, many parties (including the Weinsteins who deliberated profit sharing for all three Rings movies and the first Hobbit) before landing at New Line Cinema. New Line and Warner Bros. never had TV rights to the books, but Amazon now has rights to material created exclusively for the films. And Peter Jackson is apparently not yet involved, but is probably owed some money at some point.

All of this stems from Bezos’ September 2017 mandate that Amazon find the next Game of Thrones. Still, as much as I love the Tolkien books and Jackson’s trilogy, I truly don’t think there’s enough story to warrant five full seasons. Sure there’s Unfinished Tales and Silmarillion material, but we saw what happened when The Hobbit films were forced to be more Ring-like.

Do you think a Lord of the Rings TV show will be worth it? Let us know in the comments below!

Images: New Line

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!

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