Bezos ‘personally involved’ in talks
Tolkien estate approached Amazon, Netflix and HBO
Rights cost about $250 million, per sources
Amazon Studios is currently in early talks with the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien and Warner Bros. Television to develop a TV show based on the former’s massively popular high fantasy series, The Lord of the Rings. According to multiple reports, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is “personally involved” in the talks, which isn’t regular practice for him.
Bezos has been pushing his entertainment division for big genre programming, akin to HBO’s Game of Thrones. A series for LOTR would fit right in with that mandate, though a deal is far from official at this stage, as per THR’s sources.
The Tolkien estate had approached Amazon, Netflix, and HBO with a whopping upfront price tag of $200 – $250 million, which HBO has already passed on. That’s just for the rights, with the development and production expected to cost a hundred million per season itself.
No writer has been sought or hired yet, so the deal would be just for the characters. Moreover, Deadline reports that the rights do not include all characters, and would be limited given there already exist a trilogy of films based on the same novel.
The interesting thing here is that Warner Bros. settled an $80 million lawsuit with the Tolkien estate just four months ago, which had been going on since 2012. The dispute had stemmed from the use of LOTR characters in video games and online slot machines, says Variety, with the whole thing turning into a battle over profits. Though the settlement terms weren’t disclosed, a filing revealed no costs were awarded.
Amazon Studios has been undergoing a tumultuous period of its own, lately. Its president Roy Price quit last month after sexual harassment allegations surfaced, while on the set of The Man in the High Castle. Following that, head of scripted and unscripted programming Joe Lewis and Conrad Riggs departed a week later.
This all came after Amazon had cancelled two expensive shows in the summer – Z: The Beginning of Everything, and The Last Tycoon – to shift resources to the event series unit, led by Sharon Tal Yguado, which focuses on sci-fi, action, fantasy, and horror series.