The first season of Amazon Studios’ sprawling The Lord Of the Rings series will cost $465 million to produce. The figure was revealed Friday when New Zealand, where the series is shooting, announced that the rebate for the series from the country’s Screen Production Grant is being increased from 20% to 25% ($116 million).
The season 1 budget of $465 million, confirmed by Deadline, is a massive number; Game of Thrones reportedly cost around $10 million an episode on average ($100 million a season), starting lower in the early seasons and climbing well above $10 million per episode in the final stretch.
There are some caveats. Amazon is yet to reveal how many episodes Season 1 of The Lord Of the Rings consists of, so the cost per-episode is unclear. Additionally, like Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, which was shot back-to-back, the series required building expansive, elaborate sets and creating expensive costumes. The extra startup costs will be amortized over future seasons. (Like the movies, The Lord of the Rings series also plans to shoot seasons back-to-back, which would reduce Season 2 costs.)
The West Auckland-based The Lord Of the Rings, an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels, was close to finishing the first two episodes, directed by J.A. Bayona, when production shut down in mid-March 2020 amid the escalating global pandemic. As Deadline had reported , in conjunction with an early Season 2 renewal for the big-budget fantasy drama, the LOTR series was scheduled to go on a 4-5-month hiatus after filming the first two episodes, so the shutdown segued into the planned hiatus, timed to coincide with the New Zealand winter. The writing team of the series, led by showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, used the time to map out and write Season 2 scripts.
Filming resumed in late September.
Set in Middle Earth, the TV series, produced by Amazon Studuos, explores new storylines preceding Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. The expansive cast includes Robert Aramayo, Markella Kavenagh, Morfydd Clark and Joseph Mawle.
The series employs more than 1,200 people, and approximately 700 workers are indirectly employed by providing services to the production, the New Zealand government said, as quoted by Reuters.
“The agreement with Amazon … generates local jobs and creates work for local businesses,” Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash said in a statement to the wire service. “It will enable a new wave of international tourism branding and promotion for this country.”