Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings might end up costing upwards of $1 billion

Amazon knew if it wanted to win back some prestige in the TV production world over the next few years, it needs a Game of Thrones-level hit on its hands. So when the rights to The Lord of the Rings became available, Amazon was all too eager to sign its name on the dotted line. 

The deal went down late last year and, for the first time, details have begun to emerge on what, exactly, the world’s largest online retailer got itself into. 

Namely, Amazon has bought itself a five-season commitment to a story set in Middle-earth. Amazon’s initial investment was a $250 million deal brokered between New Line Cinema and The Tolkien Estate - a bid that just barely beat out its rival, Netflix. 

But that $250 million deal was just the beginning. New reports from The Hollywood Reporter claim that, after factoring in casting, producers and visual effects, it could cost Amazon well over $1 billion to make this show a reality. 

If those estimates are correct, that would mean the new series would cost approximately three times as much as the original trilogy cost to make a mere decade ago - and make the TV adaptation of The Lord of the Rings one of the most expensive TV shows in the history of the medium. 

This wouldn't be a huge problem but, remember, Tolkien’s world is finite - unlike, say, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire which currently has five massive missives, plus two more on the way. 

Unless we’ve yet to discover a hidden cache of Tolkien’s work, we’ll soon have to dive into the unwieldy pre-Baggins world of The Silmarillion or The History of Middle-earth, compiled by J.R.R. Tolkien’s son in the ’80s and ’90s. 

There are stories to be told here, sure, but audiences might not respond as kindly to Morgoth as they did to his padawan, Sauron. 

The deals go ever on and on...

Speaking of villains, it’s certainly possible that Bob and Harvey Weinstein might make their way into these deals one way or another: When the first film in The Hobbit trilogy came to theaters, the Weinsteins used a deal inked in 1998 between themselves and New Line to snag $12.5 million of the production company’s profits.

That’s not even considering Peter Jackson, the golden boy of the franchise and the one responsible for hoisting the series from made-for-TV movies to million-dollar blockbusters. Jackson has not yet commented on whether he might join on in Amazon’s grand adventure - although, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Jackson’s lawyer has been working to bring the famous director/creator and Amazon closer together. 

Should Jackson or the Weinsteins finagle their way into separate deals and/or lawsuits, it could further run up Amazon’s tab. 

Hopefully Amazon has a dragon’s hoard worth of gold up there in Seattle to pay for all this.

Nick Pino

Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.