Earlier this month, news broke that Amazon was trying to close a deal to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings to life as a television series, and now it looks like it’s actually going to happen.
Amazon has announced that it has acquired the TV rights for the book series, with a multi-season commitment. But the twist is that this will apparently be a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, rather than the story audiences already know so well.
“The Lord of the Rings is a cultural phenomenon that has captured the imagination of generations of fans through literature and the big screen,” Sharon Tal Yguado, head of scripted series at Amazon Studios, said in a statement.
“We are honored to be working with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line on this exciting collaboration for television and are thrilled to be taking The Lord of the Rings fans on a new epic journey in Middle Earth.”
Given the rather extensive attention director Peter Jackson gave to The Lord of the Rings, not to mention The Hobbit, it’s not unreasonable to ask why Amazon would want to walk down this path in the first place.
Part of it is Amazon Studios’ newfound focus, with Jeff Bezos himself reportedly asking the division to focus more on big, prestige-worthy shows with global appeal, similar to Game of Thrones.
Given that the Lord of the Rings films are so well-known, it’s hard to see how yet another adaptation would fulfill that directive but Amazon is going to solve the problem by actually going beyond what the movies offered.
In the statement announcing the news, the company clarifies that the new show will explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, with a potential spinoff series also included as part of the deal.
That means Amazon is going to be making a prequel to the classic tale of Frodo Baggins, offering Amazon plenty of leeway to create its own characters and take on the world.
If Amazon is looking for an opportunity to add the sex, violence, and soap opera drama to Tolkien’s world that have made shows like Game of Thrones so successful, this kind of approach would certainly offer the opportunity.
While Amazon hasn’t revealed how much it ultimately paid for the rights to the Lord of the Rings universe, a report from Deadline earlier this month claimed that Amazon, Netflix, and HBO were all originally approached about the project, with the rights alone priced in the $200 to $250 million range.
To put that in perspective, Deadline also notes that the shopped price for the franchise would make it about as expensive as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s entire acquisition of Washington Post, assuming Amazon actually paid close to the reported number.
Taken with the news that Amazon is planning a free version of its video streaming service for consumers, it paints a picture of a company that is getting more and more aggressive about creating original content to pull viewers in. Given the big movies competitors like Netflix and Disney are making, Amazon’s timing couldn’t be better.